January 17, 2014

The Art Newspaper reports rumours that Britain is trying to sell antiquities of 'disgraced dealer Robyn Symes'

In today's article in The Art Newspaper online, "Italy threatens to sue UK firm over ancient 'loot'", Cristina Ruiz and Javier Pes write about the 'Government's liquidator rumoured to be selling disgraced dealer Robin Symes's antiquities'.
Italy is demanding the immediate return of a cache of antiquities stored in London and warning that if it does not receive information about the status of the collection within 30 days, it may sue the firm responsible for the objects. 

Italy’s state legal counsel was planning to send, this month, a final warning to the liquidator responsible for the assets of the disgraced antiquities dealer Robin Symes, who was declared bankrupt in 2003. Italy’s letter includes a detailed list of around 700 ancient objects, including sculptures and jewellery, that Italy is claiming because it believes they were taken from its territory illegally. The action is taking place amid rumours that the liquidator, the British firm BDO, is selling the material in the Middle East on behalf of Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC), which is attempting to recoup tax owed by Symes’s firm, Robin Symes Ltd, which is now in liquidation. If BDO fails to respond to Italy’s warning by the end of the month with detailed information on the status of each item on the list, Maurizio Fiorilli, Italy’s state legal counsel on the Symes case, will notify the public prosecutor at the Criminal Tribunal in Rome.
According to University of Cambridge's Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis (in an email to the ARCAblog) that corrected a quote in the article:
It is a scandal for the British government, IF antiquities from the Symes warehouses are being offered for sale. At the moment I do not have any information that the British government is already selling antiquities from these warehouses. But, the delay to send to Italy the antiquities that have certainly been identified as illicit is already scandalous.
Dr. Tsirogiannis' work in helping the Greek police in cultural ministry in investigating the source of antiquities that passed through the dealership of Symes is documented in the book by Peter Watson and Cecilia Todeschini, The Medici Conspiracy: The Illicit Journey of Looted Antiquities from Italy's Tomb Raiders in the World's Greatest Museums.
Here's a 2008 article in Britain's Telegraph by Alastair Smart introducing readers to Maurizio Fiorilli. And here's an earlier post this year about the antiquities lack a legal collecting history that have been subscribed to Symes.