The FBI has Charged Two Antiquities Dealers for Faking Provenances to Sell Antiquities - Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal
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The FBI has Charged Two Antiquities Dealers for Faking Provenances to Sell Antiquities

The FBI has Charged Two Antiquities Dealers for Faking Provenances to Sell Antiquities

Antiquities dealers Erdal Dere and Faisal Khan have been charged by the FBI with defrauding buyers and brokers by falsifying provenances to sell antiquities.1 Dere is also charged with aggravated identify theft for misappropriating the identities of deceased collectors who he deceivingly presented to be the previous owners of the antiquities.2 Dere and Khan were longtime business partners in Fortuna Fine Art, an antiquities gallery located in Manhattan.3 Together, they engaged “in a five-year fraud scheme to swindle buyers.”4

The indictment unsealed in Manhattan federal court on September 22 alleges Dere gave fake provenances with the names of dead collectors to buyers and brokers, including to an unnamed auction house in New York, in connection with an antiquities sale in December 2015.5 Authorities claim Khan knew Dere falsified provenances.6 Khan allegedly assisted the gallery in finding buyers for the inventory and acquired new items, primarily in Asia.7 Through Fortuna, Khan sold the antiquities to collectors in the United States and abroad.8 The indictment also mentions Fortuna did not have a website or list any inventory.9 Instead, the gallery sold directly to buyers using fake documents.10 The Association for Research into Crimes Against Art (ARCA) elucidates Dere’s and Khan’s duplicitous conduct over the years, specifically the Dere family’s behavior.11 In 1973, a truck in Turkey was found to contain a group of marble fragments later determined to be from the sarcophagus depicting the Labours of Hercules.12 The police located the truck and pieces, discovering they belonged to a goldsmith named Aziz Dere.13 The police located an additional five fragments from the same sarcophagus and ultimately arrested the men involved, including Selim Dere, Erdal Dere’s father.14 Selim Dere was sentenced to two years in prison for smuggling antiquities in Turkey.15 A few years after his release from prison, he emigrated to the United States and opened Fortuna Fine Arts, Ltd.16 Jason Felch, a Los Angeles author, alleged on his twitter account that “Fortuna and the Dere family have long been associated with Turkish smuggling networks. The Getty repatriated a looted sarcophagus from them in 1983. Several cases followed.”17 More recently, in June 2018, the Manhattan district attorney’s office issued a seizure warrant for the Etruscan terracotta vessel, Hare Aryballos (c. 580-560 BC) because of concerns regarding its export licensing.18

In her statement, acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss underscored Dere’s and Khan’s deceitful conduct and its detrimental impact on the art market. “The integrity of the legitimate market in antiquities rests on the accuracy of the provenance provided by antiquities dealers, which prevents the sale of stolen and looted antiquities that lack any legitimate provenance.”19 Through Dere’s and Khan’s deception, they “compromised that integrity.”20 Hopefully, the arrests of Dere and Khan reminds antiquities dealers of their responsibility to give accurate provenance as their behavior not only affects the market but also art history. The Inditement should also caution buyers to conduct additional research on antiquities dealers and antiquities, especially if they are purchasing “an antiquity from an art dealer with no website who tells you the work was most recently owned by a now-deceased collector.”21

  1. See Press Release, U.S. Dep’t of Just., U.S. Att’ys Off. S. D. of N.Y., Antiquities Dealers Arrested for Fraud Scheme (Sept. 22, 2020), [].

  2. Eileen Kinsella, The FBI Has Arrested Two New York Antiquities Dealers for Falsifying Ownership Histories Using Dead Collectors’ Names, Artnet, (Sept. 22, 2020), [].

  3. Id.

  4. Margaret Carrigan, Two Manhattan antiquities dealers arrested on charges of fraud, The Art Newspaper (Sept. 23, 2010, 1:09 PM), [].

  5. See Carrigan, supra note 4.

  6. U.S. Att’ys Off. S.D. of N.Y., supra note 1.

  7. Id.

  8. Id.

  9. See Kinsella, supra note 2.

  10. Id.

  11. See Association for Research into Crimes Against Art, Some background on Erdal Dere and Faisal Khan and Fortuna Fine Arts Ltd., charged in the SD/New York, ARCA (Sept. 23, 2020), [].

  12. Id.

  13. Id.

  14. Id.

  15. Id.

  16. See id.

  17. Jason Felch (@ChasingAphrodite), Twitter (Sept. 22, 2020, 1:53 PM), [].

  18. See Carrigan, supra note 4.

  19. U.S. Att’ys Off. S.D. of N.Y., supra note 1.

  20. Id.

  21. Kinsella, supra note 2.

Danielle Stadler

Danielle Stadler is a second-year J.D. candidate at Fordham University School of Law and a staff member of the Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal. She holds a B.A. in Art History and History from Emory University.