Thursday, 3 June 2021

Hobby Lobby Sues Oxford Professor Over Stolen Bible Artefacts

   I wonder what this room looks like now? (ARCA)   
Craft chain Hobby Lobby is going to court again, this time to recover some $7 million it paid Dirk Obbink a former Oxford University classics professor for ancient fragments of the Christian gospels and other artefacts that turned out to be stolen (Nina Pulling 'Hobby Lobby Sues Oxford Professor Over Stolen Bible Artifacts' Courthouse News Service June 2, 2021) [note the lawyers' names]. There is a useful reminder of the  background to all this in the 2020 'Atlantic' article "A Biblical Mystery at Oxford" by Ariel Sabar

Represented by art lawyers at Pearlstein and McCullough, the store sued the disgraced 64-year-old professor Wednesday in Brooklyn. The 10-page federal complaint notes that Obbink [...] had been privately dealing antiquities throughout that storied career. [...] Obbink was arrested in March 2020 for the alleged theft of as many as 120 pieces of Oxford-owned ancient papyrus. The school began investigating Obbink a year earlier over his sales to Hobby Lobby [..] “to date, thirty-two (32) items have been identified as having been stolen by Obbink from EES and sold directly to Hobby Lobby.” Hobby Lobby wants to be refunded in full, saying Obbink had fraudulently held himself out as the owner of all of the items he sold it. [...] Obbink could not be reached for comment on Wednesday but he denied wrongdoing through his lawyers in 2019.
He claimed that the documents concerning the sale had been fabricated to ruin his reputation. New details of what those documents say about past transactions between the two sides are now available:
In the complaint, Hobby Lobby notes that it paid Obbink more than $7 million for various artifacts over the course of seven transactions spread out between 2010 and 2013. Though Hobby Lobby usually managed to import its purchase into the United States after the sales, it says its seventh and biggest acquisition never arrived. At $1.8 million, the seventh set was billed as containing papyrus fragments from the four gospels of the New Testament, plus other antiquities. Hobby Lobby says it waited over four years for Obbink to conduct “further research” on the items before he revealed in December 2017 that “he had ‘mistakenly’ sold the Gospel Fragments in Purchase #7 and that they were, in fact, owned by his employer”. While the store was initially ready to settle for a partial refund, Obbink allegedly told it to hold tight while he purportedly auctioned off other objects, held up by an export permit process. The Museum of the Bible waited about six months before it got in touch with Oxford’s Egypt Exploration Society about the purchase. Hobby Lobby says Obbink did send it a wire transfer of $10,000 that fall, but no more money ever arrived. “I crave your indulgence to exercise some patience to enable us get this export permit and have the clients make the payment so we can close this long drawn out issue,” Obbink wrote to Hobby Lobby in October, as quoted by the complaint. “I am convinced that this whole issue will be settled latest by November and if complete payment is not made by then, I will accept whatever actions you decide to take against me”.
I suppose with Steve Green, at least you know for sure he's not going to send a hit-man. How can you 'mistakenly' sell somebody your employers' property worth 1.8 million dollars? That seems an incredibly immature excuse to me.  "Crave your indulgence to exercise some patience"....? Please. Did his nanny come from the Rees-Mogg household?  

I would like to know more about this reported 2017/2018 sale which had gone through but held up by the lack of a (UK?) export licence but that would provide a 'partial refund' of  760000 dollars he'd taken from Hobby Lobby and failed to deliver the items. What was in this later shipment? Where had the material in it come from, and what happened in the end? Did the buyer get it, or is it still being investigated? What was auctioned in 2019? 

Also, note that shipment #7 (February 5, 2013) contained the four gospel fragments for $760000 and the other 1.1 million concerns "antiquities" sold by Obbink and which apparently the MoB received. What were the antiquities Obbink was selling, and where did they come from? 

Wtf? "In a series of email exchanges in the fall of 2018 and the spring of 2019, Obbink informed Hobby Lobby that he needed to sell objects from his personal collection in auctions to pay the $760,000 pursuant to the Return Agreement". So he's dealing in antiquities, collecting antiquities and treating them as a source of capital? To be clear, nobody should be handling anything that cannot be verified to  have 100% watertight paperwork from this private collection until the police have completed their investigation into Obbink's dealings with antiquities as a whole. This collection complicates things, and what about all the antiquities seen lurking in the background of many of the photos of Obbink in his room(s) in the College? To whom did they belong and why were they there? 

Watching this case is going to be fun, and I hope journalists will give it some good coverage - I suspect some interesting facts may emerge. From my own (admittedly limited) contacts with Mr Pearlstein in the past - he is good. Does anyone know who's defending Prof. Obbink? 

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