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Sotheby's sues Henan man over US$3.5 mil. non-payment

HONG KONG--Sotheby's said Tuesday it had launched a lawsuit against a mainland Chinese man in a bid to recover US$3.5 million after he failed to pay for 20 paintings and scrolls that he won in an auction.

The company said it had filed a case in the Hong Kong High Court on Saturday against Zhang Bo from China's central province of Henan, who bid for the art works in April this year.

The items fetched a total of HK$34.1 million, but Sotheby's said it was seeking HK$27.54 million (US$3.55 million) as the owner of two of the paintings decided to cancel the sale and not pursue legal action.

"The defendant has failed and/or refused to pay the total purchase price," Sotheby's said in the court filing, a copy of which was given to AFP.

The priciest among the lots was famous Chinese artist Xu Beihong's “Grazing under the tree,” an ink and color hanging scroll dated 1943, which was sold for HK$7.8 million, beating its pre-sale estimate ranged from HK$4-6 million.

The auction house has filed 13 non-payment cases since 2006 in Hong Kong, which has become the world's third-largest auction hub after New York and London thanks to cash-rich Chinese collectors.

Six of the cases are still pending in court.

Sotheby's raked in HK$468 million from its fine Chinese paintings sale in April, more than double estimates, in an auction that it said was dominated by “spirited competition from greater China.”

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