Drug dealer's art collection sold at auction

Picture used for illustrative purposes only. (GETTY IMAGES)

A treasure trove of fine art and antiques seized from a British drug baron was sold to raise money for crime fighting.

The collection, which includes a 17th-century painting by a Dutch master and a rare Chinese ivory figure, was amassed by Philip Meadows using proceeds from dealing drugs.

Meadows, 70, was in possession of cocaine worth almost £150,000 ($240,000) when he was arrested in Doncaster, central England, three years ago.

During a life of crime, he acquired over 100 works of art, pieces of silver, precious ornaments, jewelry and fine furniture.

Bidders packed an auction room in Sheffield, also central England, as the criminal's collection hit the block. Many of the prospective buyers were unaware of the precise origin of the lots.

But Graham Wragg, of the local police's economic crime unit, reassured the public that nothing was stolen or looted.

"These are high-quality items, and though they were once owned by a criminal, they are all being legitimately sold," he said. "Some of the money raised from this auction will come back into the community to benefit local people and causes."

The collection brought in higher-than-expected revenue. A Chinese carved and painted figure, expected to raise about £400, eventually sold for £4,400. One 18th-century Dutch school painting with an upper estimate of £250 sold for £1,900.

Liz Dashper, a director of Sheffield Auction Gallery, said the criminal "knew his stuff," adding that "he is obviously very knowledgeable. These are not things he bought by accident. He would have to have known what he was looking for."

It was not known whether Meadows - now serving a nine and a half year jail term - would be informed about the proceeds from his former collection.

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