Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Fortuna has Ceased to Smile for one US Dealer?

"We are asking anyone who may have dealt 
with Mr. Dere or Mr. Khan to contact us at You may have been 
a victim of their alleged scheme.”

FBI agents carted off boxes and bags of apparent evidence during a raid Tuesday on the home of a former Manhattan art gallery owner, Selim Dere (Jerry DeMarco 'FBI Raids Ridgewood Home Of Former Upper East Side Art Gallery Owner', Ridgewood Daily Voice 22nd Sept 2020). The former dealer's son Erdal Dere, 50, of New York City was also arrested by federal agents on Tuesday as was his longtime business associate Faisal Khan.

An indictment returned by a grand jury in Manhattan charged both men with "engaging in a years-long scheme to defraud buyers and brokers in the antiquities market" by using the names of dead dealers and brokers to "offer and sell antiquities." The men conducted the scheme from the now-defunct Fortuna Fine Arts Ltd gallery on East 69th Street off Madison Avenue that Selim Dere and his son owned and operated, authorities said. The younger Dere falsified sales records and then posed as dealers when meeting with clients, the Southern District of New York indictment alleges. “The integrity of the legitimate market in antiquities rests on the accuracy of the provenance provided by antiquities dealers, which prevents the sale of stolen and looted antiquities that lack any legitimate provenance," acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said. Dere and Khan, she said, “compromised that integrity, and defrauded buyers and brokers of the antiquities they sold."
Audrey Strauss seems to believe one can seek integrity in such a market. The dealer had been previously involved with law enforcement when Turkish police took him and two other men into custody more than 25 years ago in connection with the alleged smuggling of a marble sarcophagus depicting the 12 labours of Hercules. The dealer is also mentioned in connection with artefacts from Turkey, a marble statue of a young man and fragment of garland smuggled from a Greco-Roman city of Aphrodisias in Turkey, and a fragment of a mosaic from Zeugma (Ozgen Acar, Zeugma's Plundered Mosaics ArtNet 29th August 2000) and also an ancient “Hare Aryballos” from Etruria circa 580-560 BCE (See ARCA Lynda Albertson, 'Seizure: An Etruscan Hare Aryballos circa 580-560 B.C.E.' ARCA). Lynda has done a very useful and full breakdown of what can be put together about the defendants:' Some background on Erdal Dere and Faisal Khan and Fortuna Fine Arts Ltd., charged in the SD/New York' (ARCA Blog September 23, 2020) including possible connections with the Garsana tablets, and I think the question that raises is 'what took them so long?'. Interestingly, the December 2015 case that is specifically mentioned in the indictment is not on her list. 

According to the indictment issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of New York, September 22, 2020, "Antiquities Dealers Arrested For Fraud Scheme", they are:
charging ERDAL DERE, the owner and operator of the Manhattan-based antiquities gallery Fortuna Fine Arts Ltd. (“Fortuna”), and his longtime business associate and co-conspirator, FAISAL KHAN, with engaging in a years-long scheme to defraud buyers and brokers in the antiquities market by using false provenances to offer and sell antiquities. DERE is also charged with aggravated identity theft for his misappropriation of the identities of deceased collectors who were falsely represented to be the prior owners of the antiquities.
That is an interesting take on top of the alleged fraudulence. This is quite an important development, because one might suspect that the practices described could be relatively frequently used in this market:
From approximately 2015 through September 2020, DERE and KHAN engaged in a scheme to defraud buyers and brokers in the antiquities market by providing false information regarding the provenance of antiquities they offered for sale. Specifically, DERE and KHAN falsely claimed that various deceased collectors of antiquities were the prior owners of items being sold and offered for sale, in order to conceal the true provenance of the antiquities and the sources from which Fortuna had acquired them. DERE communicated the false provenances featuring the names of deceased collectors to buyers and brokers. DERE also fabricated documents purporting to evidence the prior ownership of antiquities by the deceased collectors, and provided them to buyers and brokers, including to an auction house in New York, New York in connection with a December 2015 antiquities auction. KHAN assisted Fortuna in finding buyers for items from its pre-existing inventory and acquired new items, primarily in Asia, that KHAN worked with Fortuna to sell to collectors in the United States and internationally. With KHAN’s knowledge, DERE provided false provenance information to potential buyers of items that KHAN had personally located and acquired, listing deceased collectors as the long-time owners of items which KHAN and DERE well knew had not been owned by those collectors.
The question is, can assertions of former ownership by a "Swiss Collector" be treated in the same way? Glad to see law-enforcement getting tough with pseudo-provenances and faked collection histories.


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