Stamp intrigue catches Brierley unawares
In the rarefied world of stamp collecting, Sir Ron Brierley is known as "Lionheart".
The legendary New Zealand corporate raider is one of the largest buyers and sellers of stamps in the world. But his passion has seen him unwittingly caught up in a legal dispute involving a A$3.5 million (NZ$3.8m) collection.
According to documents filed with the Supreme Court, Brierley, who is named as one of the defendants in the lawsuit, approached Gary Watson, sole director of Melbourne stamp dealer Prestige Philately, last year to conduct an auction of a limited number of rare Australian stamps he owned.
The auction, titled "Australian Rarities from the Lionheart Collection", was due to take place last month before a court injunction forced Prestige to withdraw eight lots from the sale.
Watson said the injunction was sought by Marilyn Kino, who alleged her brother-in-law had misappropriated the stamps legally purchased by Brierley from another auctioneer.
The civil case is due to go to trial in the Supreme Court of Victoria today after she lodged a writ claiming some rare and valuable stamps had gone missing from her father's A$3.5m collection. Kino's father was Julian Sterling, an art and antiques collector, who died aged 88 in June 2012.
In her affidavit obtained, she said she was the sole beneficiary of her father's estate and married to retired lawyer Michael Kino.
She claimed her father's valuable collection was kept in a safe at his Caulfield apartment and that her brother-in-law, Brian Kino, "generally had unfettered access to the collection and he may have had the combination to the safe".
When she became aware that several of the stamps were due to be sold at the Brierley auction last month, she had her lawyers alert Watson that the stamps had been removed from her father's collection without authority.
In mid-April this year, Watson said his wife told him Michael Kino had phoned her to say that Lot 6 - four £1 stamps featuring a kangaroo in the middle of a map of Australia, valued at A$50,000 - in the Lionheart auction had been stolen from Sterling's collection. He then received an email from the Kinos' solicitor on April 17 demanding the withdrawal of Lot 6 and another seven lots.
A week later Watson replied by email that Brian Kino had told him Sterling gave him several stamps, which he sold to New Zealand auctioneer John Mowbray.
"I informed the solicitor that [the Kinos] had provided no real evidence of theft, that no police report, no insurance claim, and no report to APTA [Australasian Philatelic Traders' Association] had been made, and that this caused me to seriously question the credibility of the claim," Watson said in his affidavit.
He and Brierley were aware that if any stamps were proven to be stolen from Sterling, "Mrs Kino would have good title to them".
Watson said Brierley had then suggested the auction go ahead and the net sale proceeds be held in trust pending the outcome of the Supreme Court case, but Marilyn Kino rejected this offer.