Qatari sheikh wins $4.9M fake antiquities case against artefact dealer

A member of Qatar’s ruling family has won a legal claim against a British antiques dealer when seven ancient items he bought for $4.9 million were ruled to be fake.

Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al Thani, a cousin of the emir and a well-known international collector, bought the objects between 2014 and 2015 from JEL in London, which specialises in Indian, Gandharan, Himalayan and South-East Asian works of art. JEL is run by John James Eskenazi.

They included:

  • The head of a goddess, which was claimed to originate from the Greater Gandhara region in the late Bactrian period 2nd/3rd century CE. It was described as marble with garnet inlay. He paid $400,000.
  • The head of Dionysus, which was described as originating from Bactria, circa second century CE. It is marble with gemstone inlays and was bought for $1,275,000.
  • A serpent bracelet from Afghanistan, circa first-century BCE to first century CE. It is gold with turquoise and garnet inlay and was purchased for $125,000.
  • The Hari Hara sandstone statue originating from the Kingdom of Zhenla ― present-day Vietnam ― in the late seventh century CE. The price was $2,200,000.
  • The head of a Bodhisattva, which was purported to originate from Gandhara in the fourth century CE. Sheikh Hamad paid $730,000.
  • The Visit of Mayadevi to the Emaciated Bodhisattva (“the Frieze”), which was claimed to come from Gandhara, Swabi, in the early third century CE.
  • The head of a Krodha Vighnakarta, which it was claimed came from Greater Gandhara in the fifth/sixth century CE.

Each invoice contained the following words: “I declare that to the best of my knowledge and belief the item detailed on this invoice is antique and therefore over one hundred years of age.” However, after a trial at London’s High Court, each item was ruled to be inauthentic. In the case of the head of Krodha, one expert told the court that the “survival of an unfired clay object of this kind, for 1,500 years, would be astonishing: it is so remote as to be fanciful”.

Mr Justice Jacobs ruled every item sold as inauthentic after hearing from specialist experts in the field.

He said the sheikh and his company, the Doha-based Qatar Investment and Projects Holding Company (Qipco), are entitled to recover their money.


The National
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