Thursday, March 12, 2009

Looking Back: Dionysos returned to Turkey

I have been reviewing the case of a 2nd century BCE statue of Dionysos returned to Turkey in 2002 ("Dionysos statue to return to Turkey", Turkish Daily News October 19, 2002). Dionysos had apparently "been seized in Switzerland and delivered to England on the condition of giving it back to the country from which it was stolen."

The statue seems to reappear in a case heard in the Court of Appeal, London. An individual, formerly residing near Littlehampton, had been convicted in 1996 for drug trafficking (see The Times April 27, 1996). He reappeared in court in 2007. Apparently "he is unable to pay the outstanding £1.9m because his "exceptional" 2,000-year-old statue of Dionysus had been seized as a stolen antiquity by the Turkish government." ("East Preston drug baron's fortune amazes neighbours", Littlehampton Gazette December 24, 2007.)

The statue appears in the Annual Report (2007/08) for the UK's Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office (RCPO) [press release July 18, 2008]:
The Asset Forfeiture Division brought about our first case of returning a national treasure to its country of origin when David Telli, a drug trafficker successfully prosecuted by RCPO was jailed for 22 years with a confiscation order of over £3 million. Part of the order - a stolen 2,000 year old statue of Dionysus was repatriated to Turkey.

The text of the report gives more detail:
In the case of Telli, the offender was sentenced to 22 years imprisonment for drug trafficking offences and a confiscation order was made for £3,458,806. David Telli asked the court to reduce the amount of the order against him. He pointed out that when the confiscation order was made, the court had taken into account a 2,000-year old statue of Dionysus in his possession. It later transpired that the statue was stolen and it was repatriated to Turkey accordingly. Telli argued that this development entitled him to a certificate of inadequacy. AFD opposed the application, pointing out that when the confiscation order was made, Telli had hidden some of his assets and arguing that, because he had done this, he could not now show that he was unable to pay the order. We were successful in both the High Court and the Court of Appeal, and Telli remains liable to pay the full amount of the confiscation order.

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