High Court judgment regarding a £12m antique Islamic crystal Jar dispute against Sotheby’s

  • June 15, 2018
  • By Hetty Gleave, Partner

Judgment was handed down this morning in the High Court in relation to a dispute over the ownership of an early Islamic crystal Jar said to be worth approximately £12 million.

Hetty Gleave and Petra Warrington of Hunters art law team acted for the successful Claimant, Mr Ali Saatsaz Jeddi, a collector and dealer of antiques in Iran. The defendant was Mr Ali Pishvaie, also a collector and dealer of antiquities.

At the centre of this case were two conflicting accounts of the Jar’s ownership history. Mr Jeddi claimed to have bought the Jar in Dubai in 2010 and given it to Mr Pishvaie as his agent to be consigned to Sotheby’s for auction in 2012. If sold, Mr Pishvaie was to receive commission on sale equivalent to 25% of the hammer price less costs of sale.

Mr Pishvaie however claimed that the Jar had been in his family collection since at least 1956, that it had been given to him by his father and brought to Europe in late 1968/early 1969 before being brought to London in 1981, which is where it remained. Mr Pishvaie maintained that he had sold the Jar to Mr Jeddi in 2011 by way of part exchange for an antique bronze object, but that as they both considered the Jar was worth more than the bronze object he had kept a 25% ownership interest in the Jar.

Each side accused the other of fabricating documents, deliberate deception, and lying to the Court. Mr Jeddi’s and Mr Pishvaie’s factual accounts directly contradicted each other and, ultimately, the credibility of the two protagonists was at issue.

The judgment is a significant victory for Mr Jeddi and confirms that Mr Pishvaie’s account of the exchange of the Jar for the bronze object was found to be “implausible and unevidenced”.  It was also noted Mr Pishvaie was “prepared to mislead the auction house in order to obtain his advantage”.

The case raised interesting issues on the law relating to bailment and agency and relied on an array of expert evidence ranging from the forensic experts who advised on the authenticity of hand writing and paper, and telecoms experts in relation to dates of documents produced. The Judge found that Mr Pishvaie had, on the balance of probabilities, forged his evidence proving title to the Jar and that Mr Jeddi was entitled to immediate possession of it.

Hunters are delighted that the Court found in favour of Mr Jeddi in this hard-fought dispute over the ownership and right to possession of this unique and valuable early Islamic rock crystal Jar.

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