Fugitive Billionaire Joseph Lau Sells $20M Worth of Art and Wine With Sotheby’s and Christie’s.


Hong Kong billionaire Joseph Lau is technically on the lam, but that won’t prevent him from cashing in when Sotheby’s auctions off thousands and thousands of pounds worthy of of his porcelain next month.

Lau will offload eight pieces from his collection courting to the Ming and Qing dynasties, according to resources cited by the South China Morning Put up. Earlier this month, news broke that the billionaire would independently sell $3 million really worth of unusual wine at Christie’s.

Lau was convicted in Macau in 2014 of money laundering and bribery he was sentenced in absentia to much more than five several years in jail. The 70-12 months-previous tycoon lives in Hong Kong, which does not have an extradition settlement with Macau, allowing him to dodge the sentence.

The future auctions increase queries about how a billionaire fugitive could still take part in the maximum echelon of luxurious commerce—and whether or not the auction houses have decided on to forget his sordid previous.

Erin Thompson, an affiliate professor of artwork crime at the John Jay Faculty of Felony Justice, said that auction organizations previously have a popularity for working with shady sellers.

“They do not make funds if they refuse to work with a person,” she wrote in an email to The Daily Beast. “Auction properties have efficiently lobbied to keep away from regulatory oversight, arguing we need to believe in them to scrutinize on their own.”

One particular of eight porcelain pieces Lau is advertising by Sotheby’s.

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Thompson noted that some auction firms “have accepted laughably bogus provenance documentation from consigners” and finished up marketing looted or phony pieces of artwork.

There is no indicator that Lau’s goods were being acquired improperly, although his legal troubles could pose a reputational danger for the firms.

Lau was convicted of bribing a Macau govt official with extra than $2 million in 2005 to assist earn access to valuable land shut to the airport. He resigned as chairman of his publicly traded genuine estate group, Chinese Estates Holdings Limited, amid the lawful turmoil in 2014, handing the reins to his son. Lau appealed the responsible verdict but missing in 2015.

In the meantime, the billionaire continued to indulge. That exact same yr he spent $48 million to acquire his 7-year-outdated daughter a substantial 16-carat diamond. In 2020, he anonymously offered a David Hockney portray, “The Splash,” for roughly $30 million.

It is no surprise that auction properties have continued to function with Lau, reported retired FBI agent Robert Wittman, who started the bureau’s Nationwide Artwork Criminal offense Crew, in accordance to his personalized biography.

“Sotheby’s and Christie’s, and they’ll be the initially to convey to you, they are in the business of purchasing and providing. They are not in the enterprise of regulation enforcement,” he stated. “Whether or not it’s moral… that’s a selection for the buyer and seller.”

Sotheby’s and Lau’s organization did not respond to requests for remark. After this tale released, a spokesperson for Christie’s stated that the enterprise conducts due diligence on its sellers and complies with all rules. She did not specially reply to a concern about Lau.

Lau is advertising $3 million really worth of exceptional wine at Christie’s.


Auction properties do ordinarily operate with a code of perform, and Sotheby’s code contains anti-revenue laundering, anti-corruption, and other because of diligence provisions. U.S. federal restrictions also protect against firms from performing enterprise with folks on sanctions list.

Amelia Brankov, an art attorney primarily based in New York, stated that auction residences may possibly be hesitant to block a buyer or seller who isn’t currently breaking the legislation.

“Just mainly because a man or woman has been convicted of a crime would not suggest that they can’t if not transact for legit purposes…[such as] promote their assets or possess a home or purchase a meal,” she reported.

She additional that a conviction does not essentially necessarily mean a person is actually responsible, citing politically determined rates as 1 example. “There’s no a single-measurement-matches-all reply,” she reported.

Near to a ten years just after his preliminary conviction, Lau continues to be stuck in the headlines, and not just for his 8-figure dealmaking. Shares of Chinese Estates, now managed by his spouse, have slumped drastically, and the enterprise reportedly missing $447 million past 12 months.

In selling off compact pieces of his collection, Lau may well be seeking to stockpile funds. But with an approximated net value of $13.6 billion, in accordance to Forbes, the latest discounts will merely be pocket adjust.


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