The Swiss art dealer Yves Bouvier seems to be gradually giving up his unofficial title of “king of the free port”.
Bouvier has sold its Singapore freeport to Chinese billionaire Jihan Wu for $28.4 million, according to a report in Bloomberg. Wu, who made his fortune in cryptocurrency, acquired the freeport through his company Bitdeer Technologies Holding.
A rBitdeer’s representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment; a Bouvier spokesperson declined to comment.
The transaction was private, meaning the sale price was not disclosed, although Wu reportedly confirmed the deal in a text message. The sale took place two months ago, in July, according to accounting regulator records.
The sale price of $28 million represents a loss for Bouvier, Bloomberg reports; in 2010, the cost of building the facility later known as Asia’s “Fort Knox” was S$100 million, currently about $70 million.
It was not immediately clear whether Bouvier’s sale of the Singapore property was linked to his years-long international legal battle with Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, who accused Bouvier of defrauding him of $1 billion. dollars over more than 10 years by overcharging him on the purchase of expensive works of art by Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso and Leonardo da Vinci.
Rybolovlev has relentlessly pursued Bouvier and other entities involved in the transactions – with varying degrees of success – in thorny lawsuits and enforcement actions across Switzerland, Monaco, Singapore and the United States. Although Bouvier declared “complete victory” after a Swiss court dropped the last of the charges against him in 2021, Rybolovlev successfully appealed the Geneva court’s decision in late July, and a criminal appeals court reinstated the investigation.
According to court documents and a statement from Rybolovlev’s lawyers at the time, the Geneva court referred the case to the prosecution.
In October 2019, The arts journal reports, Bouvier had the potential to sell Singapore Freeport to Tayrona Pacific Star for an estimated $60 million. The transaction was delayed four times after Tayrona’s manager complained about the state of the freeport infrastructure.
Rybolovlev first made the allegations against Bouvier in early 2015. In late 2017, Bouvier sold the family’s Geneva-based freeport business, Natural Le Coultre, which she had owned since 1983, for an undisclosed sum. At the time, he was “in front of the risk of having to declare bankruptcy and [put] 45 employees out of work,” according to a report.
Now that Bouvier has sold the Singapore Freeport, it appears his only remaining operation for art storage and transport is the struggling art operation Fortius in Luxembourg. According to a report in a Luxembourg information servicefollowing a financial shake-up at the Luxembourg company in early 2017, Bouvier put between $4.5 million and $7.65 million “into the pot” every year “to keep his business afloat, even if it is in debt to the tune of just over $10 million.”
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