A solicitor thought that helping to recover a stolen Leonardo da Vinci painting would bring him “kudos”, a court heard yesterday.
Marshall Ronald (53) is one of five men accused of demanding £4.25 million for the return of the masterpiece Madonna of the Yarnwinder.
The artwork was snatched by armed raiders from Drumlanrig Castle, the Dumfriesshire estate of the Duke of Buccleuch, in August 2003.
Ronald told the High Court in Edinburgh he first became involved in the matter when he was approached by his co-accused Robert Graham (57) and John Doyle (61), who ran the website Stolen Stuff, which aimed to reunite stolen property with its rightful owner.
He said the pair had heard there was a chance they could return the painting to its owner and wanted advice on whether there was any way it could be done lawfully.
Also on trial are Calum Jones (45), a solicitor from Kilmacolm, Renfrewshire, and David Boyce (63), a solicitor from Airdrie, Lanarkshire.
The five accused have pleaded not guilty to conspiring to extort £4.25m from the late Duke of Buccleuch, his son and the insurer. They further deny an alternative charge of attempted extortion. The offence is alleged to have taken place between July 18 and October 4, 2007.
They are not accused of the robbery.