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Italian Prosecutor: "We want to repatriate those objects"

Paolo Ferri, the Italian prosecutor, has been linked to many of the returned antiquities. He is now quoted over the possible identification of three lots in a forthcoming New York auction to images from the Medici Dossier (Dalya Alberge, "Critics Say Christie's Should Pull 3 Items From Auction", Wall Street Journal June 3, 2010).
Paolo Ferri, a Rome prosecutor who specializes in art theft cases, is seeking to recover the objects. He described the Christie's sale as "very unethical," adding: "We want to repatriate those objects." He said he had been aware of the sale since the catalogue was published some weeks ago and was pursuing his efforts to repatriate the objects through diplomatic and international police channels.
Ferri added, "Christie's knows they are selling objects that appeared in the Medici archive".

Alberge, who also covered the April sale of antiquities at Bonhams in London, interviewed a range of European and North American scholars. Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn added: "The auction houses are doing themselves no favors in continuing to offer tainted antiquities for sale".

Cambridge University researcher Christos Tsirogiannis, who used to work with the Hellenic Ministry of Culture, has been studying the seized photographic archives. He is quoted:
Photos from the Medici archive suggest that all three objects are probably illicit, unless Christie's proves with evidence and beyond any doubt the legal provenance of the objects, by simply providing their full history after 1970.
Alberge also interviewed ICE Special Agent James McAndrew who headed the investigations that led to the seizures from Christie's in 2008 and 2009:
he is looking into the June 10 sale, as he would any sale, and with Christie's co-operation. He emphasized Christie's efforts at due diligence and compliance when offering objects for sale, and that the auctioneer doesn't always have access to all the information available to law-enforcement agencies. Still, he added: "I think they could do better."
A spokesperson for Christie's issued a statement:
"With respect to these particular lots, Christie's has not been notified of a title claim by any government authority, nor are these lots identified as problematic by the Art Loss Register or Interpol. As an added measure, Christie's has undertaken its own research into this matter and has found no evidence to support the need to withdraw these lots. Unless and until Christie's receives a title claim, we plan to proceed with the sale of these lots."
Christie's can now be expected to reveal the full collecting histories for the three pieces for the period from 1970. They also need to explain why they "forgot" to mention in the original catalogue entry for lot 139 that it first surfaced at Sotheby's London in 1992.


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David Gill said…
Note: the article in the WSJ has been changed since it was first issued.

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