Celebrity art dealer who stole works worth £500,000 jailed for four years
Jonathan Poole ran into financial difficulties and sold works by John Lennon, Ronnie Wood and Miles Davis that did not belong to him.
A Cotswold art dealer stole nearly £500,000 worth of artworks – including paintings by the Rolling Stones’ Ronnie Wood, a court heard.
Among the items stolen by Jonathan Poole were pieces depicting celebrities including Diana, Princess of Wales, model Kate Moss, the Stones’ Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman, singer Bob Dylan, The Doors’ Jim Morrison and U2 frontman Bono.
Over three decades Poole, 69, made over £435,000 by either selling artwork he was not entitled to or by taking percentages of the profits from legitimate sales.
Gloucester Crown Court heard the stolen artworks had various owners, including various British collectors and a German art dealer.
Poole, an accomplished wildlife artist, ran into financial difficulties and closed his two galleries in the Cotswolds. He also attempted to take his own life.
After the closure, efforts were made to trace the stolen artworks, including paintings by John Lennon and Miles Davis, and return them to their rightful owners but some have never been located.
James Ward, prosecuting, told the court: “He was trusted by the wealthy individual who invested in art.
“He was trusted by the internationally acclaimed celebrities, those household names whose art estates he represented, such as Ronnie Wood, Miles Davis and the legendary John Lennon.
“He was trusted by those ordinary people who simply relied upon his expertise as a wildlife artist.
“Picasso said ‘We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realise truth.’
“The Crown says if only this knowledge, in the words of the great Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, had been within ‘the little grey cells’ of the wealthy and famous clientele of Jonathan Poole.
“They may have realised that the fine brush strokes of the highly prized paintings and the orientation of the sculptures were revealing a message about truth – they were about to be stolen by the very art dealer in whose expertise they had invested and entrusted with their art collections.
“Imagine the shock when his clients realised that truth – they had invested and trusted an international art dealer who was a professional thief of some ability.”
Mr Ward likened Poole’s crimes to that of the plot from the hit Hollywood film The Thomas Crown Affair – dubbing this case “The Jonathan Poole Affair”.
“Both Thomas Crown and Jonathan Poole stole the paintings in broad day light,” he said.
“Whilst Thomas Crown stole as a challenge, because his world had become too stiflingly safe, Jonathan Poole stole either to fund a gambling habit, or to stash away money for later life or to fund a lifestyle he couldn’t afford.”