A art dealer is being sued over claims he ripped off a super-rich Qatari sheikh by selling him £4.2m worth of ‘fake’ ancient statues.
John Eskenazi is accused of scamming art collector Sheikh Hamad Bin Abdullah Al Thani with ‘forgeries’ of ancient art.
Sheikh Hamad says he paid ‘top dollar’ for seven pieces, including a carved head of the god Dionysus and a £2.2m statue of the goddess Hari Hara.
He said he was told they had been created between 1,400 and 2,000 years ago before they were unearthed by archaeologists after being hidden in caves for centuries.
But Sheikh Hamad, whose London home Dudley House is reportedly Britain’s most expensive private residence, later demanded that the dealer take them back and give him a refund, claiming the works were not authentic.
The Queen reportedly commented on the £330million house whilst having dinner with the sheikh in 2015: ‘This place makes Buckingham Palace look rather dull’.
The High Court heard Sheikh Hamad had the pieces examined after purchase by experts having grown suspicious, and found evidence they were forgeries, with modern materials including bits of plastic embedded in one of the items, a grotesque clay head.
His also claim the state of preservation is too good to be true for their purported age.
John Eskenazi has denied all the claims in the High Court writ and is fighting the case
Sheikh Hamad Al Thani outside London’s High Court for the hearing over the artworks
The Roll royce in which Sheikh Hamad Al Thani arrived at London’s High Court for his case
Mr Eskenazi, 72, who is one of the world’s top dealers in Indian, Gandharan, Himalayan and South-east Asian works of art, says they are authentic and denies all allegations of wrongdoing.
He and his company are now being sued by both his family company 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 most expensive one was fake.
They are trying to force repayment of the £4.2m ($4.99m) they shelled out.
But Mr Eskenazi is presenting his own expert evidence to Mr Justice Jacobs at London’s High Court and is counter-suing for a declaration that all the works – which were lined up in court before the judge – are real and authentic.
The court heard that Sheikh Hamad, 40, who arrived at court in a Rolls Royce, paid around £4.2m 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 £150m in a nine-month period’ on ancient artworks.
He is relying on expert reports which state that on examination ‘protruding plastic’ was found embedded in one of the pieces, an unfired clay head of a demonic being, Milfs known as the Krodha.
His expert reports also state that modern materials and chemicals suggestive of forgery were found in several other pieces and that their state of preservation is too good to be true.
Sheikh Hamad’s family home, Dudley House, in Park Lane, London, which dates from the 1700s, is a 44,000-square-foot, 17-bedroom pile