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  • Jun 18, 2020

Art Dealer Sues Over Scuppered Freeport Sale

Atrium of Le Freeport Singapore with a steel sculpture by Israeli artist Ron Arad titled Cage Without Borders. Image via Le Freeport Singapore’s Facebook page.

Swiss art dealer Yves Bouvier is suing a group of businessmen for backing out of a SGD 83.3 million (USD 60 million) purchase of Singapore’s Le Freeport, a private, maximum-security vault for storing fine art among other valuables.

The lawsuit, filed on April 15 in Singapore’s High Court, claims that property investment company Tayrona Pacific Star breached an October 2019 contract to buy the multistory storage facility. As reported by Bloomberg, the complainant alleges that company director Jaime Ordonez and two of his associates delayed the completion of the deal on four separate occasions, raising issues “that were not previously contemplated, discussed or communicated.” Among the reasons cited for the deferrals are concerns about the “bad physical and technological condition” of Le Freeport’s infrastructure as well as an unflattering article published in Malta about Bouvier’s business that posed an obstacle to the release of the required funds for the purchase. There are seven defendants listed, including the corporate entity Scudo Pte.—which co-owns Tayrona Pacific Star alongside Tayrona Capital Financial Group—and its owner, Jeff Tay Toh Hin. 

Bouvier, who also owns Luxembourg’s Le Freeport, has been attempting to sell his Singapore venture since 2017. The 30,000-square-meter facility opened in a duty-free zone near Singapore’s Changi Airport in May 2010. It counted Christie’s among its major corporate clients until 2018, when the company decided to pull its subsidiary, Christie’s Fine Art Storage, out of the city-state, whose art market has flagged for years. According to Singapore’s Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority, as of 2018, Le Freeport has accumulated a loss of SGD 18.4 million (USD 13.4 million) over a decade, while DBS Group Holdings puts the facility’s outstanding debt to the Singapore bank at SGD 20 million (USD 14.6 million).

The Swiss dealer has been involved in a number of legal scandals, notably a case alleging fraud and money laundering brought against him by Russian tycoon Dmitry Rybolovlev in Monaco, which was dismissed by the Monaco Court of Appeal in December 2019.

Charmaine Kong is an editorial intern of ArtAsiaPacific.

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