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Crime & Litigation



Court battle over giant Brazilian emerald nears resolution

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Written by LINDA DEUTSCH, AP Special Correspondent   
Friday, 17 October 2014 09:56

The Gachala Emerald is one of the largest gem emeralds in the world, at 858 carats (171.6 g). Found in 1967 at La Vega de San Juan mine in Gachalá, Colombia, it is housed at the National Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institution. Image by thisisbossi. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.

LOS ANGELES (AP) – An incredible hulk of an emerald weighing 840 pounds (381 kilograms) was hauled out of a Brazilian mine more than a decade ago and began a global odyssey that ended in Los Angeles Superior Court, where a fight over its ownership is nearing resolution.

On Tuesday, a judge eliminated from consideration gem trader Mark Downie, one of the men claiming ownership of the emerald that has been appraised at $372 million. It is considered one of the largest in the world.

Downie was the second claimant to be eliminated from consideration by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Johnson. The judge found Downie's claim was not credible.

One more trial awaits for a group of purported owners that includes gem trader Kit Morrison, who was trying to sell the gem in Las Vegas when authorities confiscated it. He says he received it as collateral from a gem dealer for a shipment of diamonds for which he paid $1.3 million but never received.

The emerald came into the U.S. in early 2005 and was kept in San Jose, Calif., for a time before being taken to New Orleans, according to a lawyer for the remaining group of claimants, including Morrison.

The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, which trucked it to Los Angeles, now has it under lock and key.

The emerald, that was pulled from a mine in the jungles of Brazil's Bahia state and is known as the Bahia Emerald, is not going to win any beauty contests. According to those who have seen it, it is a hulking brute of a gem, with several thick green rods the size of a man's forearms jutting out of a stone base.

Lawyers said that museums including the Smithsonian and the Getty have expressed interest in obtaining it for their collections. Its value is as an art object, and it can't be broken down to make jewelry, they said.

Last month, the Federative Republic of Brazil submitted a motion claiming the emerald is a piece of the country's cultural and scientific heritage and should be returned there.

A hearing is scheduled for January to determine if Brazil has a claim.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-10-16-14 0007GMT



ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE

The Gachala Emerald is one of the largest gem emeralds in the world, at 858 carats (171.6 g). Found in 1967 at La Vega de San Juan mine in Gachalá, Colombia, it is housed at the National Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institution. Image by thisisbossi. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license. 

Last Updated on Friday, 17 October 2014 10:09
 

SC Johnson regains Frank Lloyd Wright desk, chair

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Written by M.L. JOHNSON, Associated Press   
Friday, 17 October 2014 09:05

Frank Lloyd Wright-designed chair for the Johnson Wax Headquarters, manufactured by Steelcase Inc. Image courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago. Copyright 2014 Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. It is believed that the use of this low-resolution images qualifies as fair use under United States copyright law.

MILWAUKEE (AP) – A desk and chair designed by Frank Lloyd Wright has been returned to home products giant SC Johnson as part of a settlement with a California man who had planned to auction the distinctive and valuable furniture, a company spokesman said Tuesday.

SC Johnson, which is based south of Milwaukee in Racine, sued Sotheby's auction house and Thomas Figge, of California, after the auction house listed the furniture for sale in 2013.

Wright designed SC Johnson's Administration Building in the 1930s and created furnishings for it. The desk made of enameled steel and American black walnut has horizontal “speed” lines that give it a unique, streamlined look, according to court documents. It is painted a deep red and has rounded drawers that swing outward in a cascade. The blue upholstery on the accompanying chair indicates it was used in the company's records department, the documents said.

The chair and desk were among multiple copies produced for SC Johnson. The company said in its lawsuit that it has not sold or loaned any items designed by Wright except in a few, well-documented cases to museums. It said it had no record of a gift to the people named in the ownership history provided by Sotheby's, believed the items rightfully belonged to SC Johnson and wanted them returned.

Court documents show the lawsuit was dismissed Oct. 8 because a settlement had been reached. The terms weren't disclosed, but SC Johnson spokeswoman Jam Stewart said in an email to The Associated Press that the company got the furniture back.

“Frank Lloyd Wright designed furniture is an important part of our company's legacy,” Stewart wrote. “The furniture was designed in 1938-39 as part of Wright's vision for the Administration building. We are happy that chair and desk have been returned to SC Johnson and our legacy has remained intact.”

Figge's attorney, John Cahill, declined to comment on the settlement. Figge bought the furniture in 2002 from a previous owner, according to court documents.

SC Johnson offers tours of two Wright-designed structures, the Administration Building, where examples of the architect's furnishings can be seen, and the Research Tower, where products including Raid bug killer, Glade air freshener, Off insect repellant and Pledge furniture polish were created.

___

Online:

SC Johnson tours: http://www.scjohnson.com/en/company/visiting.aspx

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-10-14-14 2309GMT



ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE

Frank Lloyd Wright-designed chair for the Johnson Wax Headquarters, manufactured by Steelcase Inc. Image courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago. Copyright 2014 Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. It is believed that the use of this low-resolution images qualifies as fair use under United States copyright law. 

Last Updated on Friday, 17 October 2014 09:14
 

Artist's son loses $300M inheritance case against mother

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Written by AFP wire service   
Tuesday, 14 October 2014 09:08
Ink and color on paper by Xu Linlu. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com archive and Maple Auction Galleries. BEIJING (AFP) – A Chinese painter's son who sued his 95-year-old mother over the estimated $300 million artistic treasure trove left by his father has lost the case, state-run media reported Tuesday.

The legal action brought by Xu Huayi is reminiscent of high-profile trust fund disputes in the West, and the family feud is a far cry from long-held Chinese ideals of filial piety.

His father Xu Linlu, a prominent painter of flowers, birds and fish, died in 2011.

He left a collection of 72 paintings by some of China's most renowned artists, including Qi Baishi and Xu Beihong, and three antique teapots.

The works are worth at least 2 billion yuan ($326 million), according to lawyers' estimates, Chinese media have reported.

His widow Wang Lingwen filed a will with a Beijing court in which he left her everything but Xu Huayi sued, claiming it was a forgery and demanding the estate be split up between the relatives.

The couple's five other living children, and the daughters of two who had died, are divided on either side in the court case.

The Second Intermediate People's Court in Beijing ruled on Monday that the will was the true intention of the deceased and that the widow should retain ownership of the assets, the Beijing Morning Post said.

Internet users lamented the values revealed by the case.

"Family ties are nothing in the face of money," said a posting on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo.

Another user slammed the younger Xu.

"Children who sue parents for money: you need courage to stay alive," he wrote.



ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE
Ink and color on paper by Xu Linlu. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com archive and Maple Auction Galleries.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 October 2014 09:27
 

Authorities probe burglary at Yogi Berra museum

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Written by Associated Press   
Friday, 10 October 2014 08:34

Autographed photo of New York Yankees Yogi Berra. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com archive and Piedmont.

LITTLE FALLS, N.J. (AP) – Authorities are investigating a burglary at a museum honoring Yogi Berra.

Montclair State University Police Chief Paul Cell says the break-in at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center happened Wednesday morning. He would not say what, if anything, was taken.

The museum honoring the New York Yankees Hall of Famer opened in the late 1990s. It is located on the university's campus in the northern New Jersey community of Little Falls. In addition to the baseball exhibits and memorabilia, it offers children's educational programs that focus on sportsmanship and social justice.

County, state and federal agencies are assisting in the investigation.

The Essex County Crimestoppers program is offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for the burglary.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-10-08-14 1950GMT



ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE

Autographed photo of New York Yankees Yogi Berra. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com archive and Piedmont. 

Last Updated on Friday, 10 October 2014 09:31
 

Swiss museum to decide next month on German art trove

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Written by Associated Press   
Thursday, 09 October 2014 09:52
Franz Marc's (1880-1916) 'Pferde in Landschaft' (Horses in Landscape), circa 1911, gouache on paper, was among the looted artworks passed down from Hildebrand Gurlitt to his son, Cornelius Gurlitt. BERLIN (AP) – A Swiss museum said Wednesday that it expects to decide late next month whether to accept a priceless collection of long-hidden artworks bequeathed by German collector Cornelius Gurlitt.

Gurlitt, who died in May, designated the Kunstmuseum Bern as the sole heir to his collection. A decision on whether to accept the bequest is expected at a Nov. 26 meeting of its board of trustees, museum spokeswoman Ruth Gilgen said.

The museum had six months to make its decision, starting from the formal opening of Gurlitt's will.

German authorities in 2012 seized 1,280 pieces from Gurlitt's apartment while investigating a tax case, including works by Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall.

Shortly before he died, Gurlitt reached a deal with the German government to check whether hundreds of works were looted from Jewish owners by the Nazis. Authorities say that deal is binding on any heirs.

Separately, the German Cabinet on Wednesday approved plans to set up a government-backed center called the German Lost Art Foundation, which will bring together existing research and coordination facilities and streamline the handling of the search for looted art.

The foundation will be based in the eastern city of Magdeburg and will start work later this year, government spokeswoman Christiane Wirtz said.

She added that the decision “makes clear again that Germany is facing up to its special responsibility to clear up the Nazis’ looting of art.”

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-10-08-14 1356GMT



ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE
Franz Marc's (1880-1916) 'Pferde in Landschaft' (Horses in Landscape), circa 1911, gouache on paper, was among the looted artworks passed down from Hildebrand Gurlitt to his son, Cornelius Gurlitt.
Last Updated on Thursday, 09 October 2014 10:03
 
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