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German violin dealer jailed for fraud

One of the world's leading dealers in stringed instruments has been jailed for fraud and embezzlement. The German violin expert's web of deceit was exposed after his business collapsed in 2010.

A court in Vienna jailed a top German dealer in Stradivarius violins and other rare stringed instruments on Friday for six years for running a multimillion dollar fraud and embezzlement empire.

The court found Dieter Machold guilty of using instruments he was supposed to be selling on behalf of clients to obtain loans to finance his business activities and private life.

"I am a failure. I have lost everything," Machold said in a Vienna court after his conviction.

"You played for high stakes and you lost a lot, but you understand you have to take the responsibility for this," Judge Claudia Moravec-Loidolt told him.

An ascent 'built on sand'

The 63-year-old's Bremen-based business grew impressively over the years, and Machold came to serve leading musicians and collectors. He opened branches in Zurich, New York, Chicago and Vienna.

But his business collapsed two years ago, forcing Machold to declare bankruptcy. He has accumulated debts worth up to 150 million euros ($191 million), according to newspaper reports.

Prosecutor Herbert Harammer had narrated the career of the shamed businessman, who came to be one of the most influential dealers in instruments on the planet.

"This ascent was built on sand," Harammer had said to the court, accusing Machold of leading a lifestyle that was a farce, considering that his business had been insolvent since the middle of 2006. Machold lived in a castle in Austria, had a taste for luxury cars, and collected watches and cameras.

His ex-wife and her mother were each handed one-year suspended sentences for aiding Machold, by helping him conceal musical instruments and a watch collection during the collapse of his business.

sej/mz (Reuters, AP)