A British billionaire paid US$43 million (S$53 million) for a Monet masterpiece that once belonged to former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos then paid another US$10 million (S$12 million) to thousands of Filipino rights victims to keep it and himself from being dragged into court, US and British media reported on Thursday.
The New York Post and Britain's The Telegraph said hedge fund manager Alan Howard paid the Filipino class-action group in exchange for a legal release on any claims regarding the ownership of the painting "Japanese Footbridge over the Water-Lily Pond at Giverny." Howard, worth an estimated US$1.6 billion, said he bought the painting "in good faith" from a London gallery in 2010.
But US investigators said the painting was stolen by Vilma Bautista, former personal secretary of Imelda Marcos in New York, and illegally sold it to pay off debts.
Bautista, 75, has been charged in Manhattan with conspiracy and tax fraud over the illegal sale of the painting.
Howard, the Swiss-based founder of respected Brevan Howard Asset Management, bought the painting from the London gallery and dealership Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox in September 2010 after being assured by the seller and legal advisers that the Monet masterpiece was safe to buy, according to The Telegraph.
Howard is not accused of any wrongdoing and is not going to be called to Bautista's trial.
But he is considering legal action against the London gallery, the New York Post said, citing a post on the website Smoking Gun.