Art dealer admits insurance deception

A Christchurch art dealer has admitted damaging a Peter McIntyre painting he owned and then trying to make a false insurance claim for it.

Donald William Cornes, 67, pleaded guilty in the Christchurch District Court today to the charge of attempting to obtain payment by deception.

Judge David Saunders convicted and discharged him without penalty. It was his own painting that was damaged and there had been no losses through the offending.

The court was told that Cornes was an art and furniture dealer and owned a number of artworks.

After the September 2010 earthquake, he made a claim for damage to artwork and was paid $33,350.

The court was told that Cornes then intentionally damaged the Peter McIntyre painting after the earthquake in June 2011.

He phoned his insurer to say that the painting was damaged in the earthquake, and lodged a formal claim about four paintings that were damaged beyond repair. The total claim was for $18,250.

The insurance company later declined the claim on the basis that he had intentionally damaged at least one of the paintings.

He was charged and was scheduled to defend the charge at a hearing in next February, but came to court today to change his plea to guilty.

He told police: "I had damaged one of the paintings after the quake. I was cleaning up when I came across the McIntyre painting. It looked a write-off. I was very upset. I was down on my knees and I just lost my temper and slashed at it with a piece of glass I grabbed off the floor."

Cornes had faced a charge of theft of paintings from another artist until police chose to withdraw the charge in September.

It had been scheduled for a defended hearing when the police dropped the charge.

That artist was left with the option of taking civil action if he wanted to pursue his claim against Cornes.

The charge had referred to four paintings by Taranaki artist John McLean, with a value of $75,000.

The Press