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The current racketeering investigation into FIFA by the United States Department of Justice casts aspersions over the entire game of football, and in particular, those at the top of the sport, who have been charged in criminal court instead of holding the game in the highest esteem. This story leaked into other areas - and in this case the Art market - and there is a journalistic necessity to investigate allegations. Doing nothing is not an option.

Over the past two weeks, there have been a number of reports concerning a Pablo Picasso painting allegedly used, or offered, as a bribe to the UEFA Chairman Michel Platini, by Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin.

Obvious questions appear to have been overlooked in much of the reporting to date. Perhaps the most important pieces for the Art market in the jigsaw of this story so far; what Pablo Picasso painting are they referring to in these allegations, where is the painting now, and what does the painting look like?

These questions, very few people can answer to and Vladimir Putin’s legacy, does make one worry about getting whacked. Re-call the polonium cocktails, not exactly a fad to emulate in London these days. Hey Vlad, do you hear those steps? The F.B.I. are on your tail, and they brought down every mob boss they ever went after, and your next. John Gotti ended up in prison, how’d you like his old cell?

There has been a lot written on the subject of ‘whistle blowers’, a term which in itself has negative connotations, as if to suggest someone is a ‘canary’ or bad because they squeal on their ‘friends.’ Right now, there may be four FIFA witnesses / canaries for the department of justice, who wore wires, and who plead guilty in secret two years ago. The sooner the hard cold facts come out, the better, for every market.

BACK TO THE ART MARKET

Given that sitting down with President Vladimir Putin for a polonium cocktail to discuss bribery doesn’t seem too wise, the natural person to ask about these allegations is the Chairman of UEFA, Michel Platini.

Mr. Platini’s office gave us the run around via e-mail and a telephone conversation, a sample of that conversation concerning the Picasso Bribery allegations follows.

Basic questions were posed to Ms. Marion Haap, Mr. Platini’s P.A.

Would you, by any chance, be able to provide a description, title, date and / or a photograph of this Picasso?

The conversation with Ms. Haap was farcical, she said that she had "no idea of what gifts Mr. Platini had received.” We didn’t ask her what other gifts Mr. Platini had received, or had been offered, and this, from his P.A.? She knows everything he’s involved with, that is a P.A.s job. Ms. Haap went on to say that the receptionist had given out her e-mail address in order “to get rid of you.”

So why take the call in that case?

When pressed on the subject of the Picasso Painting, Ms. Haap said to send a letter to Mr. Platini, which was taken as a blatant tactical layoff designed to delay. By this point, it was obvious that attempts to find out more about this Picasso were becoming rapidly unwelcome.

THE GARCIA REPORT

GarciaMichael J. Garcia - Getty Images

It is impossible to speak with anyone at the top of the International Football tree, without mentioning the as yet un-published Garcia Report, so during the call, we dropped in the question which is on everyone’s lips:

Do you know if Michel Platini would be happy for the Garcia Report to be published in full?

The reception to this question was an entirely different thing altogether, venomous and outraged that the Art media should mention the Garcia Report, it was as if someone had let the Kraken loose from the film 'Clash of the Titans', right in the heart of Michel Platini’s office.

For an association which espouses the virtues of honesty, Ms. Haap sure bolted aggressively, ending up with her slamming the phone down. Surely FIFA and UEFA should anticipate questions on the Garcia Report, and a professional response should be an automatic response to the media, or are we missing something here?

MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS

Just prior to slamming the phone down, Ms. Haap went on to say, “I’m his PA, I’m not in his mind.” At that point she unleashed a tirade of verbal abuse, finishing up with a thunderous set of instructions not to send a letter to Mr. Platini about the Picasso, as “we will not answer.”

So much for honesty.

Dealing with such an obtuse and arrogant attitude from a high-up representative of UEFA, on such a serious issue, raises all sorts of red flags. Why not just give the media straight answers to straight questions?

The Art market may at times seem opaque, confusing and not without its own problems, but at least it hasn’t seen racketeering on the scale which we are anticipating with FIFA and its ‘friends’, and a corruption prosecution by the United States Department for Justice.

Just for the record, the duopoly cabal of Sotheby’s and Christie’s got deservedly hammered by the antitrust division of the same United States Department of Justice, and that division doesn’t stop, until they get their man, or their woman.

BACK TO HAAP

Such an unwarranted and unprofessional response begs for deeper investigation. There are just too many unanswered questions.

THE PICASSO QUESTION:

Would you, by any chance, be able to provide a description, title, date and / or a photograph of this Picasso?

THE GARCIA REPORT QUESTION:

Do you know if Michel Platini would be happy for the Garcia Report to be published in full?

THE GIFTS QUESTION:

What other gifts in relation to his position as Chairman of UEFA, has Mr. Michel Platini accepted, or declined during his tenure as Chairman?

In view of the snide remarks by UEFA and FIFA concerning alleged English bribes for the World Cup 2018, should the British Government now initiate an investigation as to why the Garcia Report was buried?

There is, surely much more to come on this story.

PIcassoUEFAA Picasso allegedly on the market these past few years, with a Swiss label verso

Screen Shot 2016 01 21 at 18.29.31 copy

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* The Master of Fear

* Otto Krebs Collection: Spoils of War or Plunder in Peace?

* Curious Case of Spanish Gold & How It Presaged Russian Looting After World War Two

About the Author

Elliot Lee

Elliot Lee

Elliot Lee founded his antique business in 1994. Having bought his first Antique piece at the tender age of eleven, it has since then been his passion for Antiques, Fine Art, and aesthetically beautif...