Dietmar Machold, 63, was found guilty today in Vienna of fraud involving precious violins. He was sentenced to six years in jail.
More than a dozen instruments are still missing.
The sentence was shorter than than maximum ten years as the judge, Claudia Moravec-Loidolt, took his late confession into account. Many who trusted Machold with their instruments will, however, be disappointed that no fuller explanation was forthcoming of his many frauds and fiddles.
Machold, at his peak, lived the high life in a Schloss with a trophy wife and every imaginable luxury. His appearance of prosperity fooled many customers, though not old-timers in the violin trade who always regarded him with a degree of suspicion.
In the later stages of his business, he appears to have operated a Ponzi scheme – paying off creditors with money received from newly-received instruments, whose owners never got paid.
The case was further complicated by the intense secretiveness of the trade in high-worth musical instruments. We have not got to the bottom of it yet, and some suspect the rotten-egg Machold may have acted with accomplices.
A lawyer by training, Machold worked every possible loophole to feed his insatiable greed. He is the closest thing the music worls has seen to Bernie Madoff.