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MAJOR FRENCH AUCTIONEER PINNED DOWN
01 September 2000


Jacques Tajan, France's top auctioneer, has been accused by French justice of having keep a large part of the proceeds of the sale of the Giacometti succession he conducted in July 1994, justice sources said.

Jacques Tajan sold 18 works by Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti at the request of Roland Dumas, a lawyer who had been designated as executor of the artist's succession but was later charged for having falsified sales record regarding a piece which had been in fact sold privately. The auctioneer was again charged for aggravated breach of trust. According to an agreement reached before the sale, a notary was to recover the sale proceeds and dispatch them in various ways. The sale totalled 42 720 000 FF (US $ 5,696 million) and a net sum of over 35 million FF was due to the Giacometti succession but police discovered that some 19 million FF were still in Tajan's hands five months after the sale.

Tajan's troubles started when the Giacometti Association lodged a complaint regarding that sale but it was only on July 13th 1999 when a curator was appointed that a sum of 8 080 282 FF (over $ 1 million) representing the remainder of the proceeds was finally released by the Tajan group. Police said that the auctioneer had thus deprived the Giacometti succession of a large part of the proceeds during five years and an expert designated by the curator calculated that interests on the sum he kept would have yielded some 5 595 000 (US $ 746,000).

Police delivered a report saying that the money kept by Tajan enabled him to have a positive balance sheet whereas things would have been different if he had paid the money in after the sale. Such funds were apparently used to finance the Tajan group and to mask its true financial situation, police said.

Such practice has been considered as illegal and the new developments regarding this case have induce questions regarding the responsibility of Roland Dumas, who as a former foreign affairs minister, has been involved in another scandal concerning bribes. Police added that he could not ignore the auctioneer's methods.

Meanwhile another chapter was added to the feud opposing the Giacometti Association to the curator of the artist's succession when a court of appeal confirmed that the association should be put under financial tutelage following a court ruling last February. Hélène da Camara, the curator, managed in July 1999 to have Jacques Tajan relieved from the supervision of the succession inventory and waged war against the Giacometti Association, which had been founded by Annette Giacometti, Alberto's wife.

The curator accused the Association of blocking the setting up of a Giacometti foundation according to Annette's wish and to wish she bequeathed an exceptional collection estimated at over $ 100 million. An expert was designated last February to verify the accounts of the Association and the way its funds were used. From then on any withdrawal of money has had to be accepted by the curator. The Association, headed by Lisa Palmer, an American citizen, now faces the risk of losing its claim on the succession following the court of appeal's decision.

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