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Friday, October 29, 2021

Coin collectors take Qatari art connoisseur to London court over $19 million debt

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Art dealers in London are suing Sheikh Saud Bin Mohammed Al Thani for reportedly failing to pay $19.7 million for a collection of ancient Greek coins he bought at an auction in New York earlier this year, according to media reports.

They are also demanding the freezing of the assets of the 45-year-old Qatari, a former minister who was once widely regarded as the world’s largest collector of antiques before falling from grace in 2005.

The lawyer representing the coin dealers in the High Court in London denounced Al Thani as a “serial defaulter” who has allegedly racked up $60 million in debt to auction houses around the world, including $6.9 million owed to Bonhams and $42 million owed to Sothebys, the Telegraph reports:

“He bids, wins and then doesn’t pay. One can only conclude that this is a person acting dishonourably and disreputably and with mala fides,” (Jeffrey Gruder QC said)… Maybe he is like an inveterate gambler who can’t stop himself gambling at Ladbrokes every day.”

Al Thani’s lawyers denied the claims, saying he had tried to pay for the coins over the past nine months. Stephen Rubin QC also said the dealers only “organized” the sale of coins owned by an unidentified client of A.H. Baldwin and Sons. 

The QC added: “The way in which the American complaint is formulated is misconceived; in that it purports to be a claim for enforcement of a ‘contract of sale’, notwithstanding that the claimants were not on any view parties to any such contract with the sheikh”.

The judge said he will issue his judgment at a later date.

In 2005, Al Thani was dismissed as Qatar’s Minister of Culture and placed under house arrest here after allegedly using a London dealer to fake invoices and misleading the government about the value of the items he was buying, the Daily Mail reports.

He re-emerged shortly after and continues to be a big spender in the art world, and much of the art we see on display in museums in Qatar stem from his purchases.

Thoughts?

Credit: Photo by Seth Anderson

This post previously incorrectly included a photo that misidentified Al Thani.

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