A German art collector and socialite accused of carrying out a £1million fraud is fighting extradition to the UK after being arrested in Portugal, a court heard.
Angela Gulbenkian, 38, allegedly pocketed £1,143,656.25 in payment for a piece called the 'Kusama pumpkin' by Yayoi Kusama but never handed over the item.
She also allegedly stole a further £50,000 from her friend, Jacqui Ball, who she said she would acquire high-end art for.
Gulbenkian has been in custody since she was arrested in Lisbon in June, and has been contesting her extradition in the Supreme Court of Justice in Portugal.
Pictured: Angela Gulbenkia, who is accused of carrying out a £1million fraud and is fighting extradition to the UK after being arrested in Portugal
Judge David Tomlinson told Prospero House, one of London's new Nightingale courts: 'It has been confirmed to me today that the defendant is in custody, either to be discharged in Portugal or sent in custody to a hearing at a crown court here.'
David Markham, prosecuting, raised concerns about the current trial date of February 8.
He said: 'This date in February ought not to be vacated at this stage, though obviously the closer we get to February the greater the logistical difficulty with that.
'Clearly we do have our eye on the possibility that arises if and when Ms Gulbenkian is extradited to this country and is before the court and the amount of time between then and the trial.
'Particularly with regards to serving of defence statement, which given complexity may change.
'We have some concerns about just how viable the 8th of February would be if we even have the defendant in front of the court.'
She allegedly pocketed £1,143,656.25 in payment for a piece called the ‘Kusama pumpkin’ by Yayoi Kusama (pictured) but never handed over the item
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.
The Gulbenkians are considered one of Europe’s wealthiest, most renowned art collecting families.
She became heavily involved in the continental art world, marketing herself as a high-end broker.
In 2017 a Hong-King art firm, Art Incorporated - owned by Mathieu Ticolat - claimed it paid Gulbenkian more than $1.3million for the ‘Kusama pumpkin’ but never received the piece.
The firm filed a civil suit which saw a world-wide freeze on Gulbenkian’s assets.
She was later accused by her masseuse and friend Jacqui Ball, of stealing £50,000 after also claiming to be an art broker, but again delivering nothing.
Gulbenkian denied both counts of theft last September and gave her address as an apartment at Battersea Power Station.
She had been released on unconditional bail ahead of a trial, originally scheduled for May 11, but a warrant was issued for her arrest when she failed to appear at court in February.
Who is Yayoi Kusama?
World famous Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama (pictured in 2017) is one of TIME magazine's 100 most influential people
World famous Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, known as 'the queen of polka dots', has been named one of TIME magazine's 100 most influential people.
Kusama, 88, is known for her use of vivid colour in her works that often depict polka dots and spotted pumpkins.
She often appears in a wheelchair and sporting her trademark red wig.
Born in 1929 in central Japan's Nagano prefecture, Kusama suffered from psychological trauma due to feuding between her parents, and was already drawing dots and nets as a child based on her hallucinatory experiences.
After moving to the United States in 1957 at age 28, Kusama became a fixture in the Pop and Minimalism art movements of the 1960s.
Kusama's Yellow Pumpkin
During a 16-year stint in New York, she staged 'happenings' at the height of the sexual liberation movement where people stripped naked and had their bodies painted with polka dots on Wall Street or Central Park.
By the time Kusama returned to Japan in 1973,she was burned out and voluntarily checked into a psychiatric ward where she has lived ever since.
It was not until the 1990s that Kusama was 'rediscovered'.
Her commercial success was highlighted when she collaborated with Louis Vuitton in 2012 and she was named the world's most popular artist in 2014 by the Art Newspaper.