Five Cleared Over da Vinci Plot

From the BBC:

Five men accused of conspiring to extort £4.25m ($6.5m) for the safe return of a Leonardo da Vinci painting have been cleared.

The case was found not proven against Marshall Ronald, Robert Graham and John Doyle, all from Lancashire. Glasgow solicitors Calum Jones and David Boyce were found not guilty. The men were accused of seeking the funds for bringing back the Madonna of the Yarnwinder, which was stolen from a castle, near Dumfries, in 2003.

At the High Court in Edinburgh, all five men had denied the charges. The offences were alleged to have taken place between July and October 2007. The men were charged with plotting to extort the money for the return of the artwork, which had been taken from the Duke of Buccleuch’s Drumlanrig Estate, north of Dumfries, four years earlier.

They were not accused of carrying out that raid. A jury took eight hours to deliver its verdict after a trial lasting more than seven weeks. During the trial the court heard details of an undercover police operation to recover the artwork.

Prosecutors praised their efforts, claiming the officers involved had “turned the tables” on the accused. They said a video the men had produced showing the valuable painting alongside a copy of a newspaper was a “hallmark of kidnapping and extortion”. Those claims were dismissed by lawyers representing the accused.

They described the assertion that their clients were involved in a conspiracy as a “colourful tale” and a “mad idea” which was “wholly incredible”.

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