Art dealer held over theft, fraud

Last updated 05:00 23/07/2012

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Relief has come for a Taranaki artist who alleges he lost more than $75,000 worth of work to an art dealer who has been arrested on charges of theft and fraud.

Urenui artist John McLean said yesterday he was happy about the arrest of his former agent Donald Cornes.

McLean said he was relieved an arrest had been made but it was a "happy-sad feeling, it's a sad situation."

In 2009 Mr McLean laid a complaint with police over the disappearance of four paintings which were collectively worth more than $75,000, including the 2008 Wallace Award finalist Fisher Family Departing.

"I also like the thought there's some chance that I may get my paintings or my money back," McLean said.

For three years police could not find Cornes and once described him as a "ghost".

They looked for him at several Christchurch addresses and put out airport alerts because Cornes was known to travel between New Zealand and Australia, where he was among the top Australian colonial art dealers in the 1980s and ran a gallery on the Gold Coast.

In May Cornes was tracked down at a property in Colombo St, Christchurch, and passed the information on to police.

Cornes was arrested last Thursday and will appear in Christchurch District Court tomorrow.

McLean said he was not worried about the time it had taken police to arrest Cornes.

"There was buildings falling down and murders going on down there.

"The detective I was talking to kept in touch and told me they were working on it, so I'm not at all concerned about the time it took."

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- Taranaki Daily News

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