Hackers infiltrated a sales deal between a Dutch museum and a London art dealer and made off with $3.1 million.

The Rijksmuseum Twenthe in Enschede, the Netherlands, was in the midst of a months-long email negotiation with dealer Simon C. Dickinson to purchase a prized John Constable painting when hackers hijacked the exchange, posing as Dickinson and convincing the museum to funnel the money into a Hong Kong bank account.

Now the museum is suing Dickinson, claiming the dealer should have known about the fraud, according to Bloomberg.

In a London commercial court this morning, Gideon Shirazi, a lawyer representing the museum, argued that negligence on the part of the dealer’s team allowed the thieves to steal the museum’s money. Shirazi claimed that Dickinson’s negotiators were aware of emails between the museum and the hackers, but did nothing to stop the transaction.

“By saying nothing, they said everything,” he said.

The Rijksmuseum Twenthe in Enschede, Netherlands. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Rijksmuseum Twenthe in Enschede, Netherlands. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Dickinson’s lawyer, Bobby Friedman, said the museum should have independently confirmed the legitimacy of the bank account before wiring the money, adding that his client, a specialist in Old Master paintings, was never aware any fraud was taking place. Each side is accusing the other of having been hacked.

“Instead of accepting the reality of the situation, the museum has reacted by pursuing a series of hopeless claims against [Dickinson], in the hope of pinning the blame for the museum’s mistake on [the dealer],” Friedman wrote in a submission to the court.

While the case isn’t settled, a London judge has ruled against the museum’s current claims for damages. But he has left the door open for the museum to modify its case and continue pursuing it.

Meanwhile, the museum is holding onto the painting and preventing Dickinson, who is still unpaid, from selling the work to another buyer. 

Arnoud Odding, the museum’s director, first became interested in Constable’s 1824 painting A View of Hampstead Heath: Child’s Hill, Harrow in the Distance upon seeing it at Dickinson’s TEFAF booth in Maastricht in 2018.

Neither Dickinson nor the Rijksmuseum responded to Artnet News’s requests for comment.

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