Crooked lawyer sues storage boss over return of £110k art

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A CROOKED New Town solicitor is suing a former storage company boss for the return of eight paintings worth up to £110,000, which he claims have vanished.

Michael Karus, who is suing his own sister for £11 million over ownership of his property empire, launched the legal action against Colin Kerr in a bid to recover the artworks.

Lawyers for Karus allege that the 50-year-old put the paintings, which included a harbour scene by renowned Aberdeen artist Alberto Morrocco, into storage with Leslie and Leslie Ltd, a now defunct storage firm run by Mr Kerr in Haddington.

But Mr Kerr’s solicitors contend that Karus had business links with the firm, and that he, or someone on his behalf, must have removed the paintings before the company went bust.

Lawyers for both parties told a hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court yesterday that they believed the paintings might be in the possession of Lothian and Borders Police following a criminal inquiry, but it is understood that the force does not have the artworks.

Meanwhile, Karus, who was jailed for three-and-a-half years in 2009 for embezzling £400,000 from a pensioner’s estate, claims he was never involved with Leslie and Leslie Ltd, except as its landlord.

The firm’s collapse sparked an outcry in East Lothian in 2009, with residents who had deposited valuables at its warehouse claiming they were prevented from collecting their property.

The company was evicted from its base in Haddington by landlords Mako Property Ltd – a firm once controlled by Karus, who was known to boast of being a “shark” who preyed on vulnerable victims and named the company after the mako shark.

Mr Kerr, 60, had been facing charges of embezzlement connected with Leslie and Leslie Ltd following its collapse, but the case was dropped by the Crown due to a lack of evidence.

Mr Kerr’s lawyer, Colin Simpson, told the court yesterday that his client admitted the eight paintings were to be kept by the storage firm on behalf of Karus and his elderly mother, Mary, but he said that Mr Kerr has “no knowledge of the whereabouts of these paintings”, which were removed from storage by Karus or someone acting for him.

Mr Simpson said that his client was willing to offer proof to the court that he had been in business with Karus.

Iain Leslie, representing Karus, told the hearing that the paintings had been purchased in 2006 and placed in storage with Leslie and Leslie Ltd.

He added: “The pursuer [Karus] has never been a director of Leslie and Leslie and never had a business relationship with Mr Kerr. They came together as a result of Mr Kerr being Mr Karus’ tenant.”

Karus himself is currently being sued by auctioneer Bonhams over the ownership of two paintings.

A Bonhams spokesman said they could not comment.