Artwork, arson and insurance fraud have Sotheby's in a bind

Auctioneers Sotheby's in Amsterdam (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/DennisM). (Auctioneers Sotheby's in Amsterdam (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/DennisM))

Ben Zuidema, a Dutch art finder and private detective, believes he has solved the mystery surrounding an over-insured valuable painting that disappeared in 1987 and later went up in flames. He and international registration agency for stolen art Artloss Register, are now demanding millions of euros from auction house Sotheby's for insurance fraud, BNR reports.

This all revolves around a valuable painting which was stolen from an art gallery in 1987. In 2007 the painting was found again - completely burnt out.

After an investigation, Zuidema discovered that the then owner of the gallery, Robert Noordman, had bought the painting for 100 thousand euros and then insured it for 1 million euros - ten times more than it was worth. Zuidema believes that Noordman himself then set fire to the painting, in order to claim the large amount from the insurance. "Thus fraud", Zuidema said to BNR.

As Sotheby's has since taken over Noordman's gallery, the auction house should therefore repay the insurance money, the art investigator believes. After 30 years of compound interest, Zuidema calculates this amount to now be 7 million euros.