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Violin dealer in 60mn fiddle

A priceless collection of violins stored with the world's biggest violin dealer has vanished after he was arrested for fiddling the books.

Dietmar Machold lived in a castle in Austria and owned a Rolls Royce Corniche and a VW Phaeton - travelling the world with his schoolteacher wife buying up rare violins.

His company Machold Rare Violins has been in the family five generations since it was founded in 1861 in Germany as a violin manufacturer.

But he fled Castle Eichbüchl at Katzelsdorf in Austria to Switzerland after he filed for bankruptcy and prosecutors announced they were investigating him for fraud.

He was arrested in Switzerland in March and is awaiting extradition back to Austria but now Austrian police say that a violin collection of 17 including five instruments from Antonio Stradivari and four from Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesu have vanished.

Also missing are rare bows used to play the instruments that are similarly irreplaceable. Police said the violins were owned by big institutions that loaned them to the world's top musicians and it is believed they were being stored and cared for by Machold.

Now the collection easily worth over 50 million GBP has vanished.

Machold, who at the height of his fame had stores in Vienna, Zurich, New York City, Aspen, Chicago, Seoul and Tokyo had dealt in one in every two of the Stradivari and del Gesù violins in existence - making million in the process. In 2001 he sold a violin built by del Gesù for 1.6 million US-Dollars to a group of sixteen investors. In the spring of 2007, Machold obtained a price of more than 10 million Euros for four Stradivari violins.

But he told Spiegel that he had been forced to file for bankruptcy after buying violins worth millions that he had then not been paid for shortly before the market in the instruments collapsed - leaving him having borrowed heavily from banks with loans that he could not repay. He said: "I am expecting a down payment on a sale any day. Then the banks will love me again."

But the money never arrived and he filed for bankruptcy in October 22, 2010 in what he said was a "restructuring.". He was was arrested in Switzerland in March this year accused of embezzlement and grand commercial fraud, among other things. Machold is still in custody in a Swiss jail.

Vienna Times






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