Stradivarius dealer gets six years for embezzlement
By Michael Shields
VIENNA (Reuters) - A dealer in rare Stradivarius violins coveted by the world's top violinists was sentenced on Friday to six years in prison for embezzlement after his glittering global empire crumbled.
Dietmar Machold, 63, built his Bremen-based family business into a juggernaut with branches in Zurich, Vienna, New York and Chicago to serve elite musicians and collectors of the instruments that can command prices of several million dollars.
But the business collapsed in 2010, triggering claims against him worth tens of millions of euros (dollars) from creditors and clients who say they were bilked.
"I am a failure. I have lost everything," Machold said in a Vienna court as he was sentenced after being convicted of embezzling client funds and hiding assets from creditors.
"You played for high stakes and you lost a lot, but you understand you have to take the responsibility for this," Judge Claudia Moravec-Loidolt told him.
Prosecutor Herbert Harammer had traced the career of the fifth-generation violin expert who became one of the world's most influential dealers in instruments crafted by 18th-century masters like Antonio Stradivari, whose workshop in Cremona, Italy produced some of the finest violins and cellos ever made.
"This ascent was built on sand," Harammer had told the court, accusing Machold of leading a lifestyle that was a facade for a business that had actually been insolvent since mid-2006.
FIXTURE OF HIGH SOCIETY Continued...