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Debt-Laden Musician Forced to Sell Precious Viola

In a stern warning to those tempted to put up their treasured possessions as security for loans, a classical musician who played on the soundtracks of the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings films had to sell her beloved viola to at least partially pay off her creditors.

Kathryn Bassano was the proud owner of a viola made by master instrument maker Giovanni Ceruti in 1803, which was valued at up to £400,000. When in financial difficulties, she had offered the instrument as security for loans totalling £280,000 made to her by two antique instrument dealers and a pawn broking firm.

At the High Court, Miss Bassano challenged the validity and enforceability of two of the loan agreements. Amongst other arguments put forward were that one of the loans failed to meet the requirements of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 and that the deal with the pawn broker was not properly executed.

Her arguments were, however, rejected by the High Court, which directed repayment of the loans in full, plus interest. The viola had been sold for £230,000 prior to judgment being given, but that was nowhere near sufficient to cover Mrs Bassano’s debts and she also faced having to pay heavy legal costs bills.

Mrs Bassano argued that the viola, which had been insured for £350,000, was worth far more than the £230,000 for which it had been sold. However, the Court found that the price paid was ‘the best reasonably obtainable in the light of unsuccessful attempts to sell the viola at an acceptable price for the previous four years’.