The world's biggest violin dealer, Dietmar Machold, is facing the music in court, accused of fiddling millions from investors
The violin dealer Dietmar Machold in handcuffs at the start of his fraud trial in Vienna on September 19Photo: Reuters
By Alix Kirsta
6:00AM BST 19 Oct 2012
News of the arrest last year of the international violin dealer Dietmar Machold in the Swiss resort of Zermatt was met with incredulity by many in the arts.
It seemed unthinkable that the German millionaire who supplied such orchestras as the Vienna Philharmonic with fine violins and lent multi-million-dollar Stradivaris to artists including Midori, Hilary Hahn, Robert McDuffie and Shlomo Mintz had committed a crime.
It was not until last December, when Machold was extradited to Austria, where he was put behind bars, that the world's auction houses, concert halls and conservatoires began humming with intrigue.
In musical circles Machold, 63, was a major figure: few in that world had not done business with him over the past 25 years. With an empire that stretched from Vienna, Berlin, Bremen and Zurich to New York, Chicago, Tokyo and Seoul, he dealt almost exclusively in rare stringed instruments by the 17th- and 18th- century Italian masters Antonio Stradivari, Guarneri del Gesù, Carlo Bergonzi and JB Guadagnini; he persuaded hedgefund managers, banks and other institutions to buy these costly instruments as an investment and lend them to the rising stars of the concert hall.
Regarded by many as the most influential dealer in the world, Machold, who went on trial last month on charges of serious fraud, embezzlement, misappropriation and fraudulent bankruptcy to the tune of about €250 million, may soon be reviled as the 'Bernie Madoff of the violin world'.