Friday, July 29, 2016

Aristophil restitution

ALLEGED DSS PONZI SCHEME UPDATE: Thousands of ‘frozen’ manuscripts from bankrupt Aristophil fund to return to market. Historical documents and manuscripts from the scandal-hit Aristophil investment scheme could soon return to the market as the slow process of restitution promises to quicken in the coming weeks (Roland Arkell, Antiquities Trade Gazette).
On July 28 a judge in Paris will rule on whether the receivers can begin the process of returning around 20,000 valuable items to investors as early as September.

An estimated 135,000 works from the world’s largest private collection of historic manuscripts were placed under seal by the French judiciary in 2014 as an investigation into a ‘pyramid’ scheme began.

For more than a decade, Aristophil, run by dealer Gérard Lhéritier, was the biggest buyer in a booming manuscript market.

Acquiring spectacular works at auction and through dealers, the company encouraged investors to speculate on historical letters and manuscripts with the promise of an annual return of 8% or more.

This story is very complicated. It first came to my attention in 2015 and I posted on it here (because unidentified Dead Sea Scrolls fragments are included in the collection). Later that year the decision was made to put the collection up for sale as a unit, but it did't sell. Now it appears that — if I am reading the technical legal language correctly — the current proposal before the judge is that, as far as it is possible, the individual items should being returned to investors who paid for them:
Only a relatively small percentage of the total Aristophil holdings could be restituted in the coming months – those from so-called Amadeus contracts where documents were fully owned by an individual.

These 20,000 items are owned by around 5000 investors.

ATG understands that the receivers have asked the judge to declare all of the Aristophil contracts void so that the Amadeus restitutions can begin.
Dealing with the rest of the collection is more complicated and will take more time:
Items that were offered by Aristophil in shares, and are now the property of multiple owners (known as Coralys contracts), are legally more complicated. Their redistribution could take several years.

These include extraordinary and important items such as the will of the doomed Louis XVI, the original 39ft-long manuscript of the Marquis de Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom written while imprisoned in the Bastille, two Surrealist manifestos written by André Breton and fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

It will only be through the resale of these manuscripts that Aristophil’s investors will recoup any of their outlay.

However, it is estimated that their sale will not recover the full amount invested as the authorities say many items were given over-inflated price tags.
So that seems to be where the situation stands at present. Still no hint about the contents of those mysterious Dead Sea Scrolls fragments.