A London dealer sued after selling £4.2million worth of ancient art to a super-rich Qatari sheikh has admitted to a court that at least one of the pieces was fake.
John Eskenazi, one of the world’s top dealers in Indian, Gandharan, Himalayan and south-east Asian works of art, is facing claims he ripped off Sheikh Hamad Bin Abdullah Al Thania by charging him £4.2million for counterfeit ancient statues and art.
The sheikh, whose £363million London home Dudley House is reportedly Britain’s most expensive private residence, bought seven pieces of art through a family company, after being told they had been created between 1,400 and 2,000 years ago and unearthed by archaeologists from caves where they had lain hidden for centuries.
They included a carved head of the god Dionysus, a £1.9million statue of the goddess Hari Hara, and a gold ‘serpent bracelet’ with turquoise and garnet inlay.
But he later demanded that the dealer take them back and give him a refund, claiming the works were not authentic.
During a High Court trial which began in July this year, Mr Eskenazi insisted that all the pieces were the genuine article.
But returning to court to continue the clash this week, the dealer’s lawyers told Mr Justice Jacobs that they admit the £113,000 serpent bracelet has now been shown by experts to be a forgery.
[The £113,000 gold serpent bracelet inlaid with turquoise and garnet has now been shown to be a fake. The serpent was sold to super-rich Qatari sheikh Hamad Bin Abdullah Al Thania]
But Mr Eskenazi is still defending the claim, insisting that while he believed all the pieces were genuine, he did not offer a guarantee of authenticity when he sold them to the sheikh.
The court heard that Sheikh Hamad, 40, whose dinner guests have included the late Queen Elizabeth II and who arrived at court during the trial in a Bentley, paid around £4.2million in 2014 and 2015 for seven pieces through the family company he heads up, QIPCO (Qatar Investment & Projects Development Holding Company).
It was part of a spending spree, during which, through the company, Sheikh Hamad ‘spent £150 million in a nine-month period’ on ancient artworks.
The seven objects in dispute are four carvings of heads, the Hari Hara statue, a Buddhist frieze and the serpent bracelet.
The bracelet was purchased in November 2014 for £113,000 ($125,000) and referred to in the invoice sent by Mr Eskenazi’s company as: ‘Serpent bracelet, Afghanistan, Circa 1st century BCE to 1st century CE, Gold with turquoise and garnet inlay’.
Mr Eskenazi, 72, and his company are now being sued by both QUIPCO and the sheikh personally over allegations that the artifacts, far from being ancient, are ‘the work of a modern forger’ and that Mr Eskenazi knew the £1.99 million Hari Hara statue was fake.
This article was originally published on Daily Mail.