Art dealing socialite blew £1m after swindling buyers over polka dot pumpkin

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An art dealing socialite blew more than £1 million on her “lavish” lifestyle, which included private jets and a Rolex, after pretending to sell a famous illuminated pumpkin sculpture, a court heard.

Angela Gulbenkian, 39, received $1.275 million (£982,308.29) from a Hong Kong art firm for the polka-dotted piece called the “Kusama pumpkin”, by the Japanese contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama.

But Gulbenkian never handed over the item and earlier this month admitted the fraudulent sale of the artwork.

Gulbenkian grew up in Munich and married the great-grand-nephew of oil tycoon Calouste Gulbenkian, whose fortune funded a multi-billion pound foundation and Lisbon museum. But around the time of the theft, her husband ceased working for his family’s business, creating an “unimaginable rift” between him and his father.

Her defence counsel, Mr David Groome, said the couple went from having a “lavish” lifestyle to having their home, which was owned by her father-in-law’s gas and oil company, sold from under their feet, leaving Gulbenkian as the family’s only source of income.

She also admitted fraud in relation to £50,000 received from Jacqui Ball, a friend who had asked her to invest her money in art, the court heard.

Mathieu Ticolat, co-founder of Art Incorporated, which bought the pumpkin, said Gulbenkian was a “sociopath”, Southwark Crown Court heard.

Mr Ticolat gave evidence via video-link from Hong Kong as he detailed the impact of the fraud.

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