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A top art dealer sold a super-rich sheikh $5 million of 'antique' sculptures that had been polished with modern tools and contained plastic, court heard


  • A respected British art dealer sold seven “antique” artifacts to a Qatari sheikh in 2014 and 2015.
  • The artifacts turned out to be inauthentic. Evidence shows the use of modern tools and materials.
  • The art dealer, John Eskenazi, has been ordered to repay the Qatari buyer $4.99 million and damages.

A respected British art dealer has been ordered to repay $4.99 million, plus damages, to a Qatari sheikh after he sold him seven “ancient” sculptures that later turned out to be forgeries. 

In 2014 and 2015, Sheikh Hamad Bin Abdullah Al Thani purchased seven artifacts from London-based art dealer John Eskenazi for $4.99 million through his company Qatar Investment and Projects Holding Company, also known as QIQCO, Forbes reported.

Asian art expert Eskenazi, who has previously sourced ancient artwork for New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and Paris’s Louvre Museum, priced and sold the artifacts with the understanding they were up to 2,000 years old, per the Mail on Sunday.

According to court documents, each invoice contained a note saying: “I declare that to the best of my knowledge and belief the item detailed on this invoice is antique and therefore over one hundred years of age.”

But a High Court ruling last month found that the artifacts sold by John Eskenazi Limited (JEL) to the super-rich Qatari sheikh between 2014 and 2015 were forgeries.

“In relation to all of the objects, the Claimants have proved their inauthenticity, and the absence of reasonable grounds for the unqualified opinion as to their ancient origin, which JEL gave,” concluded the High Court judge.

The judge ordered Eskenazi to refund what the sheikh had paid for the fake artworks, plus damages, on November 29.

However, the judge dismissed the sheikh’s allegation that Eskenazi had committed fraud.

The Hari Hara

An image of the “Hari Hara” sculpture.

England and Wales High Court



A statue of Hindu deity Hari Hara, which was said to be over 1,000 years old and sold for $2.2 million, showed clear evidence that it was not ancient, according to archeological scientist Anna Bennett in a written report supplied to the court.

Bennett said that a high-speed modern machine polisher appeared to have been used on the statue and that it had been “chemically treated with hydrochloric acid in an attempt artificially to age the surface and to remove the modern tool marks.”

Head of a Krodha.

An image of the sculpture of the head of a Krodha.

England and Wales High Court



The head of “the Krodha,” a piece that was said to date back to the fifth or sixth century, had “very substantial evidence of modern materials,” Bennett added. 

There were fragments of plastic sheeting in the object and modern fibers protruding from the surface, Bennett said, according to the ruling.

Insider contacted Eskenazi and QIPCO for comment but did not immediately receive responses.

In a statement provided to Mail on Sunday, lawyers for the sheikh and QIPCO said: “While it is a matter of regret to Qipco that they felt it necessary to take this action against John Eskenazi Limited, they felt it was important to pursue this case as a matter of principle.”

A spokesperson for Eskenazi told the newspaper: “John Eskenazi and his family have suffered years of anguish and anxiety as a result of this litigation.

“He is therefore extremely pleased that the court has dismissed in its entirety the sheik’s case of fraud and has accepted that these objects were sold in good faith.”



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