Tony Hetherington is the Financial Mail on Sunday investigator, fighting readers’ corners, revealing the truth behind closed doors and winning victories for those left behind. Find out how to contact him below.
KP writes: I am sending you the contact details of the investment company Global Art Gallery. Can you tell me if this business is genuine?
Tony Hetherington replies: Global Art Gallery Limited exists, but almost everything else is wrong. He says, âGlobal Art Gallery has been in business since 1997.â And he adds, âAs a result of successful negotiations, GAG has purchased a luxury goods brand with a huge following and a compatible online presence. This brand was Chrononet.
Thus, a well-established art dealer seems to have taken over a high-class watch company. Except that is completely wrong. Even the people involved cannot understand their story. Earlier this year, they announced: âThe prestigious luxury watch dealer Chrononet recently teamed up and took over Global Art Group,â the exact opposite of what the art company itself is saying.
Mystery: the Global Art Gallery lists this Banksy as for sale but its director has not confirmed its authenticity
And the truth is even more absurd. Neither of these two companies could succeed the other, because it is one and the same company.
Companies House records show that Chrononet Limited simply changed its name to Global Art Gallery Limited. There has never been a takeover. The records also show that no matter what you call it, this company was registered in 2013, not 1997, and it lay dormant until at least 2019, with no commercial activity, let alone with the sale of high-end watches and paintings.
Someone went to great lengths to create a “legend” – a false background. They did this by buying the name of an old website – globalartgallery.com – that actually started in 1997 in the United States.
It closed a long time ago and last year the disused name went on sale. The counterfeiters also bought the name of the chrononet.com site, which was also not used.
There’s enough of it here to cause serious concern, but you might think you can play it safe by just heading to the Global Art Gallery and seeing for yourself what’s on sale.
Well, good luck with that. He uses a smart address called The Clubhouse in London’s West End and there are pictures on the wall, but no sign of an art gallery. Next to real businesses, there are businesses that pay to use it as a âvirtual addressâ.
So what does the Global Art Gallery sell? He made some big claims: âOver the past five years, premium art has generated an average return of 20% per year. And “art has been the most successful luxury investment of the past decade, growing 40% in 2019 alone.”
Potential clients are told to expect “cautious 8-15% per annum capital appreciation,” but there are few hard details. However, the website displays works by Banksy, Warhol, and Picasso, so I asked Global Art Gallery’s sole director, Alfie Wilkie, if he was selling any original pictures or prints, and at what price.
He told me, âThe works that are currently available to clients vary from artists like Banksy; Warhol (lithographs); Picasso (lithographs); Chagall, the value of which varies completely.
But Wilkie did not provide a single price. I asked him to confirm that he did have original works by Banksy and Chagall, and could he identify them? Wilkie didn’t answer.
He blamed Covid for the lack of a real gallery in London. He has offered no real address for his business, although his phone number points to the Cambridge area.
Despite this, clients are told that they can expect a ‘stress-free chair investment managed by our London-based gallery team’. I offered to meet with this team, but unfortunately Wilkie seemed unable to organize this.
So what we have is an art gallery without a gallery, and with a false history going back almost a quarter of a century, using a smart address where it has no real presence, making false claims on takeovers and refusing to name a single piece of art for sale or its price.
It’s hardly the Louvre at first glance. Do not part with your Monet …
Saga of Covid Success Cruise
Mrs ES writes: I was on a cruise ship when Australia closed its ports, and when it was cleared to dock I was allowed to disembark on condition that I return to the UK.
I wasted the rest of my vacation and going home took three nights in Sydney and four nights in Hong Kong.
Saga Insurance denied my claim on the grounds that it was a package vacation when in reality it was a tailor-made vacation built around the cruise.
Tony Hetherington replies: No one has disputed that you lost part of your vacation due to the Covid restrictions, or that you had to face additional expenses to get home. The disagreement has been over who should compensate you. Saga felt that the package travel regulations applied, so it should be the If Only tour operator who footed the bill. The Saga policy only applies if the costs cannot be recovered from anyone else.
If Only was reluctant to deal with me and wanted to make a decision together with your travel agent, but he also contacted Saga, reaffirming that yours was not a package tour.
During this time, you complained to the Financial Ombudsman Service and allowed the Ombudsman to speak to me. The Ombudsman’s initial decision was that although you booked different stages separately, your trip was a package tour, so If Only should pay you, not Saga.
Surprisingly though, Saga then had doubts and let If Only get away with it. Saga said the claim is complex, involving multiple parties, but admitted it leaves you in a tough spot. He said: “Therefore, it was agreed that the travel insurance should respond and settle the claim as a gesture of goodwill to bring the matter to fruition.”
So after months of discussions, claims and counterclaims, I’m glad that while it could have gone down, Saga paid you Â£ 3,014.
If you believe you are the victim of financial wrongdoing, write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or send an email to [email protected] Due to the high volume of requests, personal responses cannot be given. Please send only copies of the original documents, which we regret that we cannot be returned.
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