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An arrest warrant was issued Friday for the former chairman of Christie’s International while the former head of Sotheby’s Holdings Inc. pleaded innocent to price-fixing charges in a case against the world’s two largest auction houses. U.S. District Judge George Daniels signed the warrant for the arrest of Anthony Tennant, who lives in England, after a prosecutor said it was unlikely that the former head of Christie’s would show up in court. A. Alfred Taubman, the former Sotheby’s chairman, was released on his own recognizance after the men were charged with conspiring to fix auction commission rates charged to sellers from 1993 to 1999. “I am absolutely innocent,” Taubman said in a statement. “While any trial is difficult, I look forward to the opportunity to clear my name.” Taubman’s lawyer Robert Fiske Jr. said: “We are going to fight this tooth and nail.” No one represented Tennant at the proceeding. On Wednesday, the Justice Department made public an indictment against Taubman and Tennant alleging that they participated in a six-year conspiracy that cost U.S. sellers at least $400 million in commissions. Christie’s and Sotheby’s control more than 90 percent of the world’s live auctions of artworks, jewelry and furniture. A call for comment Friday to a friend of Tennant resulted in the re-issuance of a Wednesday statement, which said Tennant was “completely innocent” of price fixing and was not subject to U.S. jurisdiction. According to the statement, his duties with Christie’s included chairing the board and performing “high-level ambassadorial and client relationship duties.” If convicted, Taubman and Tennant could face three years in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. A federal judge last month approved a $537 million settlement of price-fixing lawsuits brought by customers of the auction houses, which will share the cost of the settlement. Last October, Sotheby’s former chief executive, Diana Brooks, pleaded guilty to separate charges of fixing auction rates. Sotheby’s has been sentenced to pay $45 million; Brooks awaits sentencing. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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