June 14, 2020

Remembering Paolo Giorgio Ferri

Image Credit: Jason Felch
It is with profound sadness that ARCA shares the news of today's passing of Paolo Giorgio Ferri, Italy's famed Sostituto Procuratore della Repubblica a Roma due to health complications. He was 72 years old. 

Dr. Ferri's first investigative case into Italy's stolen heritage began in 1994 and involved a statue stolen from Rome's Villa Torlonia that was then sold at auction by Sotheby's.   But it was the invaluable role he played in doggedly pursuing corrupt antiquities dealers who laundered antiquities into some of the world's most prestigious museums that made his name famous among those who follow art and heritage crimes. 

Forty-eight when his investigation began into the activities of Giacomo Medici, Gianfranco Becchina, Robin Symes and others, Paolo was integral in truly exposing the ugly underbelly of the ancient art trade and the insidious phenomenon of laundering cultural goods. 

Image Credit: ARCA
In February 2000 Judge Ferri received a commendation and a formal expression of esteem from General Roberto Conforti (then Commanding Officer of the Carabinieri Department for the Protection of the Italian Cultural Heritage) for the suggestions he made in relation to a project initiative to change the Italian law on cultural goods.   In 2011 ARCA honored Dr. Ferri with an art crime protection award for his role in the 2005 case against Emanuel Robert Hecht and Marion True, the former curator of the J Paul Getty Museum.  This case, and his work on it, marked a dramatic change, in years to come, in the policy of acquisitions by museums around the world, as well as set the stage for numerous restitutions of stolen artifacts to their countries of origin.

Following his career as a prosecutor, Ferri continued to fight for Italy's heritage and served on a special commission with Italy's Ministry of Culture, created for the restitution of national cultural heritage stolen abroad.  There he served as a legal advisor on cultural diplomacy negotiations.  Ferri also provided legal opinions regarding criminal matters, served as an advisor to ICCROM,  was part of a commission for the criminal reform of the Code of Cultural Heritage, and participated in Vienna in the drafting of Guidelines to the United Nations Convention against transnational organized crime, which was signed in Palermo in 2000.

Paolo Giorgio Ferri
Image Credit:  Daniela Rizzo/Maurizio Pelligrini, friends and colleagues.  Maurizio Pelligrini relates that this photo was taken 28 September 2004, when Paolo was in New York and still did not know if Italy would be able to convince the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Philippe de Montebello to destitute the famous Euphronios crater.
Dr. Ferri will be remembered by his colleagues and friends as one who never backed off in the fight against illicit trafficking and as someone always willing to share his knowledge and legal expertise freely and openly.  Journalist Fabio Isman, who broke the news to some of us, recalled that when Dr. Ferri wrote his first Letters Rogatory, it took three weeks to draft the document.   At the height of his investigations Ferri would go on to write three Letters Rogatory a week, asking the world for judicial assistance in the restitution of Italy's stolen works of art. 

ARCA wishes to offer its support and condolences to everyone close to this wonderful man, but most importantly to Paolo's family, particularly his wife Mariarita, his daughter Sofia and his grandchildren. 

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