An amazing story. Read it at Der Spiegel:
Machold was the Stradivarius man. There are still about 600 violins, 60 cellos and 12 violas from the famous workshop in Cremona, Italy in existence today, and Machold has held about half of these instruments in his hands. His reputation was so stellar that he was permitted to prepare the appraisals himself for the two Stradivarius instruments given to the Bremen bank as collateral, and he has also appeared in court as an expert witness.
For months, Austrian investigators and 72-year-old Jörg Beirer, the administrator in the bankruptcy proceedings, have been trying to shed light on Machold’s business dealings. Their efforts have pieced together a picture of a businessman who was probably cash-strapped for years and sold violins he had taken in commission for millions—often failing to pass on the proceeds to the instruments’ owners or to banks, allegedly using the money to pay off other debts instead.
A lawyer by trade, Machold became a respected member of high society. In Austria, a country enamored of titles, there are few things more appealing than being named an honorary professor—the reward the country’s ministry of culture bestowed upon Machold for a collection of historic violins he had obtained for the National Bank of Austria. But the titles didn’t stop there.