Rare, 25-carat pink diamond found among Imelda Marcos collection: Christie's

2015-11-25 05:31:41

MANILA A rare 25-carat, barrel-shaped pink diamond has been found among the jewelry collection of former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos, Christie's said on Tuesday after the government asked the auction house to appraise her collection of rare stones.The Philippine government could decide to auction the collection after Christie's and rival Sotheby's appraise three sets of jewelry confiscated almost three decades ago after the fall of Imelda's husband, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos."We had an extremely exciting find," said David Warren, director of jewelry at London-based Christie's. "We found an old briolette-cut diamond, which is 25 carats. It has a distinct pink color. Pink diamonds are exceedingly rare."He said the diamond could be valued at $5 million and would significantly increase the value of the entire collection if the collection is auctioned. The three sets in the collection were valued at $6 million-8 million in 1991.Only three pure, vivid pink diamonds of more than 10 carats have appeared for sale in almost 250 years of auction history, according to Christie's. A large cushion-shaped, pink-hued diamond sold for $28.55 million at the Christie's semi-annual jewelry sale in Geneva on Nov. 10.The Philippine government had tried to auction the three sets in 2005 but Imelda Marcos contested the move, claiming ownership of only two of the sets. One was found in the presidential palace after her family's hasty departure in 1986 and another was seized in Hawaii, where they lived in exile.Imelda Marcos, now an elected member of Congress, is best known for leaving behind more than 1,200 pairs of shoes when her family fled. She has vowed to recover her family's seized assets. Ferdinand Marcos was president for nearly two decades before he was ousted in an army-backed uprising in 1986. He was accused of amassing more than $10 billion while in office and died in exile in 1989.Among his assets were paintings by such masters as Monet, Picasso and Van Gogh.The government displayed the 750 pieces in the three sets of jewelery to the media. The collection, kept in a vault at the central bank, includes Burmese rubies, Indian and South African diamonds and Colombian emeralds. "It shows you the excesses of the Marcos regime," said Andrew de Castro, commissioner of the state agency tasked with recovering the wealth amassed by the Marcoses and their cronies."At a time when people were suffering, they were collecting this set of jewelery," he said.Sotheby's will appraise the collection on Thursday. (Reporting by Karen Lema; Writing by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Paul Tait)

FIFA seeking life ban for Platini, say his lawyers

2015-11-24 17:15:35

PARIS Former French soccer great Michel Platini, until recently seen as the man to lead soccer's governing body FIFA out of its worst ever graft crisis, could face a life ban from the sport if recommendations from FIFA ethics investigators are followed.FIFA's ethics committee has completed an inquiry into accusations of corruption against Platini, who as a player led French soccer out of the doldrums in the 1980s before becoming one of the sport's most powerful officials, and FIFA president Sepp BlatterA media consultant representing Platini's lawyer Thibaud d'Ales said ethics committee official Vanessa Allard had recommended a life ban for the Frenchman, who is head of European soccer's governing body UEFA."I can confirm that she is proposing to the ethics committee a ban for life," the consultant told Reuters.Allard's report has been passed to FIFA ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert who is due to issue a verdict by the end of the year. Swiss authorities opened criminal proceedings against Blatter in September over a 2 million Swiss franc ($1.97 million) payment from FIFA to Platini in 2011. The case was part of a broader scandal that broke around FIFA in May when 14 officials including two ex-vice presidents were indicted in the United States.DISGUSTED BY CORRUPTION Platini, who in May said that he was disgusted by corruption within FIFA, and Blatter have both been suspended for 90 days. They deny wrongdoing.Blatter's former public relations officer and confidant Klaus Stoehlker said the Swiss did not want to "go into detail for now" on what the committee had recommended in his case. "He was very surprised at the news about Platini," Stoehlker added. Platini, still determined to run in February's election for president in Zurich, has registered as a candidate but FIFA's electoral committee has said his bid cannot be processed while he is suspended.He could be allowed back into the race if the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) accepts his appeal against the 90-day ban but could then be eliminated again if Eckert's panel hands him a long-term ban in its final verdict. If that happens, Platini would also have to quit his role UEFA president which he has held since 2007.For a long time, Platini was considered the natural successor to Blatter who has weathered one crisis after another in his 17 years as FIFA president. The FIFA scandal is one of the biggest of several corruption affairs shaking world sport. International athletics has also suffered revelations of doping, largely affecting Russia, and corrupt manipulation of anti-doping test results.Platini was one of the most gifted players of his generation and inspired a French team which played with an exuberant Gallic flourish that delighted international audiences during the early to mid 1980s.He went on to coach the national team, then played a key role in helping France host the 1998 World Cup before moving on to become a member of the FIFA and UEFA executive committees in 2002 and, finally, UEFA president in 2007.The FIFA payment to Platini was made in 2011 for work Platini had completed nine years earlier, the Swiss attorney-general's office has said, adding Platini was considered "between a witness and an accused person." Platini says the payment was delayed only because of financial problems at FIFA. (Reporting By Brian Love; writing by Brian Homewood in Zurich; editing by Ralph Boulton)

Westbrook scores 31 to lead Thunder past Mavericks

2015-11-23 06:15:39

(The Sports Xchange) - Even though Oklahoma City have a team full of veteran and experienced players, this season they have had problems closing out games. While playing without forward Kevin Durant is a factor, it is only one reason for fourth-quarter meltdowns.When the Thunder took on Dallas on Sunday, they once again were given the opportunity to fall apart and allow a team to steal a victory from them. But this time, they finally put the pieces of the puzzle together to pull out an 117-114 victory over the Mavericks at the Chesapeake Energy Arena."It's just buckling down," Thunder guard Dion Waiters said."We just hate to lose knowing you had a chance to win. So we have to come out here from the tip and just play hard, trust one another, especially on the defensive end."Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook scored 31 points to lead six players in double figures. He shot 12 of 22 from the field to go along with 11 assists, seven turnovers and five steals. Forward Serge Ibaka collected 16 points, nine rebounds and a key block in the win for the Thunder (8-6)."I think we're moving closer and closer to, at least from an offensive standpoint, really moving the basketball," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. "I think we really found some scoring tonight. We had a lot of guys in double figures. The ball got from one side of the floor to the other. I thought we got really good contributions off the bench."Deron Williams led the Mavericks (9-5) with 20 points and six assists. Wesley Matthews added 18 points while forward Dirk Nowitzki scored 11 points on five of seven shooting. "I thought we were poor on defense the entire game," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "You give up 117 points. We've been giving up a 100 on average. It's just not getting it done. I think we loss some of our defensive edge."'HAVE TO IMPROVE'Andre Roberson gave the Thunder a 102-101 lead with 5:30 left in the game. But Zaza Pachulia completed a three-point play to put Dallas up by two. After Westbrook knocked in a shot, Nowitzki answered with back-to-back jumpers to give the Mavs a four-point advantage with 3:39 on the clock.On a pass from Westbrook, guard Dion Waiters buried a corner three-pointer to cut the lead down to 108-107. Pachulia missed a pair of free throws and Ibaka made the Mavs pay when he hit a mini-hook shot. Waiters then came up with a steal and layup to put the Thunder up by three with 2:19 remaining.Westbrook picked up a steal on the next possession and finished with a two-handed dunk. But guard Wesley Matthews hit a three-pointer to stop the run. A putback by guard J.J. Barea tied the contest at 113-113. A Westbrook jumper put the Thunder back on top by two. After getting a defensive stop, he had a chance to extend to four, but missed the jumper. Pachulia got the rebound and was fouled. He missed 1-of-2 and the Mavericks were down one.But Westbrook calmly walked down his defender and buried a midrange jumper with 24 seconds left to give Oklahoma City a three-point lead.Dallas tried to answer with Williams. But his shot was off the mark and center Steven Adams grabbed the board and was fouled.However, he missed both free throws, giving the Mavs a chance to tie the contest with 17.2 seconds left. But, Williams drove too close to Ibaka and he swatted his shot out of bounds. Dallas got the ball to Matthews for another chance to tie the game, but he turned the ball over after throwing it in and Westbrook dribbled the clock out."I haven't looked at the film yet, but it looked like Wes Matthews got cross body blocked," Carlisle said. "And the play continued. But look, it didn't come down to that. It came down to our defense wasn't good enough, missed a lot of free throws and we turned it over too much. We have to improve those three areas." (Compiled by Peter Rutherford)

Italy art critics, politicians recriminate after $16 million paintings heist

2015-11-22 16:21:46

ROME Amid recriminations and wildly diverging theories, Italian politicians and art critics are still trying to comprehend a dramatic robbery which saw 17 paintings including several masterpieces taken from a museum in Verona this week.The paintings worth an estimated 15 million euros ($16 million), including works by Tintoretto, Mantegna and Peter Paul Rubens, were stolen by three armed robbers shortly before the Castelvecchio museum closed on Thursday evening.Art historian and critic Tomaso Montanari wrote in la Repubblica daily on Saturday that it was "inconceivable" that the museum was defended by only "a single, private armed guard, like a supermarket".He blamed "savage" public spending cuts on culture, and called for much tougher sentences for art thieves.Verona's Mayor Flavio Tosi said the theft was "a wound for the city," and asked for increased protection from central government. But he rejected criticism of the security measures that were in place. A city council spokesman said the thieves had acted just after the museum's 11 staff had left but before the remote alarm system with the police station had been activated. They tied up the museum cashier and forced the armed guard to hand over the key to his car, which they used to get away.Art critic Vittorio Sgarbi, a former junior culture minister, said the theft was "an absolute disaster" for Italy and "one of the most serious art robberies in our history." He suggested it may have been organized by Islamist militants as a "demonstrative act" because the paintings would be instantly recognizable and virtually impossible to sell. Mayor Tosi said the thieves were working under commission but Alberto Deregibus, deputy head of the Carabinieri police unit for safeguarding the national heritage, said this was unlikely in view of the large number of paintings stolen. "It may have just been delinquents who thought: 'let's steal them and decide later what to do with them'," he said. (Reporting By Gavin Jones; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

U.S. agents recover N.C. Wyeth paintings stolen in Maine

2015-11-21 04:22:46

BOSTON The last two of six N.C. Wyeth paintings stolen from a Maine collector in 2013 have been recovered by agents from the FBI, closing the book on what officials say was the most significant art theft in that state's history.The paintings were recovered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the Boston area in October, a federal official said on Thursday. The FBI in August had offered a $20,000 reward for tips leading to their recovery.The six oil paintings by Wyeth, the patriarch of a line of painters known for Maine seascapes, were taken in May 2013 from the home of a prominent real estate developer in the state. The paintings were estimated to be worth up to tens of millions of dollars, officials said. Four were recovered in a Beverly Hills, California, pawn shop in 2014, according to the FBI. Three men pleaded guilty in federal courts in Maine and California to charges of trafficking in stolen goods for transporting the paintings. No one has yet been charged with stealing the art, and an investigation is ongoing.Born in Needham, Massachusetts, in 1882, Wyeth got his start as an illustrator of books and magazines. He gained acclaim for painting seascapes after settling on the rugged coast of Port Clyde, Maine, where he lived until his death in 1945. Three of Wyeth's five children - Andrew, Henriette and Carolyn - also became noted artists, as did his grandson, Jamie. While the family is associated with Maine seascapes, the missing paintings are of other subjects. One, "The Encounter on Freshwater Cliff," features a swordsman dressed in Renaissance-style clothing standing over what appears to be a slain foe. The other, "Go, Dutton, and that right speedily," features men in medieval-looking attire peering out from a doorway. It is not the only case of stolen artwork facing the Boston FBI office. The agency is still working to determine who stole $500 million worth of art from Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in a 1990 theft that stands as the largest art heist in U.S. history. (Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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