Sunday 15 January 2012

Top former art dealer faces 87 charges after fraud probe


One of Australia's former leading art dealers, Ronald Coles, faces up to 10 years in jail after being charged today with 87 offences relating to an alleged multimillion-dollar investment art fraud scheme. Mr Coles, 64, was ordered to appear at Gosford police station at 10am today. Fraud Squad detectives formally charged him following an "extremely protracted and legally intricate" two-year investigation into his business affairs. Under the Crimes Act, Mr Coles was charged with 77 counts of "larceny as a bailee" and a further 10 counts of "director/officer cheat or defraud". For more than 30 years, Mr Coles specialised in fine art by some of Australia's most celebrated artists, including Sir Arthur Streeton, Eugene von Guerard, Brett Whiteley and Norman Lyndsay. Advertising on national radio and television, he offered clients an opportunity to boost their life savings through the purchase of investment art, which he bought and sold on their behalf, using their superannuation funds. NSW Police launched Strike Force Glasson in January 2009 after a Fairfax investigation unearthed dozens of investors who were missing millions of dollars in lost art and money, all allegedly retained by Mr Coles. Today's police charges relate to more than $8 million in financial loss to a total of 43 clients nationwide. Mr Coles failed to make conditional bail of $50,000. It is understood he offered a car and paintings as surety but they were refused. He is due to appear at Gosford Local Court shortly.