Tuesday 8 February 2011

UK Antiquities Dealer to be Extradited?

Malcolm Hay, 60, who has sold antiquities to museums worldwide, was described by Richard Falkiner, member of the Treasure Valuation Committee administered through the British Museum as a "reputable and responsible" antiquity dealer. Hay, who read classics at Oxford, is described by the Guardian as "a leading expert on ancient coins", who:
has sold to institutions such as the British Museum and the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. A British Museum spokeswoman confirmed yesterday that its coins and medals department had acquired Greek, Roman and Oriental coins from Hay, and that its prehistory and Europe section purchased a brooch, among other artefacts, from him.
Mr Hay however faces being deported to Greece where he has apparently been sentenced to four years in prison due to claims that he sold stolen ancient artefacts to an Athens dealer (Dalya Alberge, 'D-day looms for antiquities dealer facing jail in Greece', The Guardian February 7, 2011). I have earlier discussed this case here and here.

The other dealer involved has been named as Anna Patrikiadou ("Dealer facing four years in a Greek jail appeals over lack of evidence", Antiques Trade Gazette November 22, 2010), who it is reported was a regular client of Mr Hay.

The matter turns apparently on the documentary evidence of a single invoice. Hay admits that when Ms Patrikiadou visited him in London in 1999, he sold her for £1,880 "hundreds of sherds of broken pottery" [apparently unprovenanced] which he had bought fairs and described as "junk" , invoicing them as "550 pieces of terracotta" . He says that the woman used this invoice falsely as "whitewashing" for other more valuable unprovenanced items that were later found in her shop by Greek police, antiquities which under Greek law belong to the state. The items seized from the trader in 2000 included unbroken pots and figurines were worth nearly £200,000. The dealer was later acquitted after claiming that she bought them from Hay, a charge he disputes (Richard Edwards and Jackie Williams, '"I sold junk. Now I face four years in Greek jail, says antiques dealer', The Daily Telegraph August 28, 2010)

When the Athens dealer was initially investigated in Greece for illegal artefact trafficking, Hay had been questioned as a witness. He then heard nothing else about the matter (really? he did not enquire about his regular business partner?) until he was arrested when he flew into London City Airport in 2007. It turns out he had been tried in absence by a Greek court for involvement in the case and as a result was the subject of a European Arrest Warrant ("Greek courts use anti-terror rules in bid to have dealer extradited", Antiques Trade Gazette February 18, 2008; "Greek court gives UK dealer three years in prison", Antiques Trade Gazette March 23, 2009). He said: "I had never been notified, accused or summoned by the Greek courts in the intervening years, and this came like a blow." Hay was handcuffed and taken to Stratford police station. There he was held for two days in the cells and then taken before an extradition tribunal, and the case has been appealed. Hay is expected to learn his fate within the next fortnight.

The British media are using the story to ridicule the idea (or rather application) of European Arrest Warrants, nobody is asking what else Mr Hay had sold this woman ('a regular client') over the years. Hay is claiming he was 'framed'. Alberga informs us that:
His plight has shocked the antiquities world and has led dealers to attach photographs to invoices.
That seems a bit of a no-brainer when the invoice serves the purchaser as a form of guarantee. When you buy a TV or electrical equipment, the serial number should be written on the guarantee, so you cannot use that document to claim money on another device of the same model. The chassis number is on the car registration documents and purchase invoice. Some form of linking the documentation of a licit transaction with a particular item or group of items surely is obvious in the legitimate antiquities trade. I cannot see why dealers would be "shocked" by the consequences of the failure of one of their number to follow this simple business principle.

Let us note also the significance of the facts of the case, despite the biased (and I suspect incomplete) reporting, it seems clear that Mr Hay and Ms Patrikiadou did this particular deal involving Greek antiquities in London (but within the EU). Now Mr Hay has been sentenced by a Greek court for an offence against Greek law and is apparently facing extradition to Greece on this account. I suspect this, rather than Hays' careless business documentation practices, is the reason why the international antiquities dealers (and I bet collectors) are "shocked" and why certain quarters would have an interest in arousing public opinion against such an "injustice". A case to watch.

Photo Malcolm Hays (what's under the draped rag Mr Hay?) [Photograph: Frantzesco Kangaris, Guardian]

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