This is a short overview in English of my open letter published in French.
It will help those who cannot read French to understand the situation.
I ask the reader to be clement with my English
« LORD PROTECT ME FROM MY FRIENDS……..
…… I CAN TAKE CARE OF MY ENEMIES «
My story: the real one. (INEDITE)
(In answer to the warrant of arrest dated August 3, 2022)
My name is Georges Lotfi
I am a pharmacist, and I was born in 1940 with a virus more virulent than Covid 19: the « acute collectionnite »
I shall announce from the beginning that I do not have American nationality and that I am not even a resident in the USA
Since the 1960’s I have start collecting and I developed a passion for antiques, and I gradually acquired an important collection of works of art with a particular affinity for ancient mosaics, and for high quality of modern copies of them, and always prevailing the intrinsic cultural value of the work, then its market value.
I must directly warn readers, that my collections comply with Lebanese and international laws (Regulation No. 166/1933, UNESCO Convention of 1972, Decree 3065 of 12/3/2016 corroborated by the decision of the Ministry of Culture No. 52 of 6/4/2022). Exhibit No. 2
The Lebanese regulations in force since the last century, (Regulation No. 166/1933), converge entirely in admitting the right of individuals to possess antiques, in accordance with common law and regulation of the profession of art dealers. The international conventions to which Lebanon has acceded go in the same direction, such as the 1972 UNESCO Convention to which Lebanon acceded in 1983 and which gives the right of individuals to the ownership of antiquities. It should also be noted that Lebanese law also gives the right of individuals to the acquisition of classified antiquities, i.e. officially listed in the official public registers of the Lebanese State, (excluding unclassified antiquities), with the right of the curator of the National Museum to inspect their place of detention and restoration, according to the state of the art.
Modern Lebanese regulations on antiquities go even further, exempting holders of movable antiques, from proving their origin and method of acquisition (Decree 3065 of 12/3/2016 under the aegis of the SE Minister of Culture Raymond Arayji, corroborated by Ministerial Decision No. 52 of 6/4/2022 of His Excellency the Minister of Culture Judge Mohamed Mourtada) Exhibit No. 6/2
In addition to a civil judgment in my favor, I have the approval of the Ministry of Culture, the Beirut Museum, and the internal security forces (home security) regarding the possession of my collections (Full file available on request)
The penal regulations, Articles 730, 731 and 227 of the Criminal Code, impose to citizens and holders of antiquities the obligation to protect them from any destruction or even deterioration, and exempt from any actions taken by their holder with a view to their preservation, because of unavoidable force majeure jeopardizing their sustainability. The Hague Convention of 1954, to which Lebanon acceded in 1954, is in line with the same rules.
In 1975 the civil war in Lebanon began and my premises were bombed, and some pieces destroyed, so I decided to take out part of my collection, and shelter it in Europe and the United States. This has been done thru an approved shipping company, known worldwide.
Exhibit No. 3-4-5
When I started collecting in the 1960s, the laws were not demanding, and the acquisition of antique objects was a fashion for many educated Lebanese. Lebanese houses to this day contain treasures!
Although I am mainly a collector, I had to sell a few pieces to be able to cover the costs of warehousing and survive with my family in Europe.
Recently I contacted the Lebanese consulate in New York announcing that I wanted to repatriate the archaeological pieces sheltered in the USA. On this Bogdanos became furious and found no better way to put pressure on me, than to issue a Warrant of Arrest against me and move the artifacts from my Warehouse in Jersey City to an unknown destination.
(See email addressed to the Lebanese Consulate in New York, with reference to the decision of the Lebanese Ministry of Culture, dated 3/11/2021 No 1384/84 and signed by the Minister). Exhibit No. 6/1-6/2)
From the height of my 81 years, I wanted to share my collections with the public, and make it known more widely in antique art magazines such as the famous article by Katherine Dundabin (professor emeritus at McMaster university) in the prestigious « Journal of Roman Archeology » of 2008 where I am named in reference.
Art and knowledge are not the attribute of ordinary peoples. They are the qualification of intelligent people with a consistent background of education and experience.
I am proud to say that I have learned a lot and I still discover things every day. These gentlemen are talking about things that they ignore, and they refer to so-called specialists which have not enough experience in these specific subjects.
I am on the publication of my third book about my collections and I will continue to do so in order to leave a heritage to those who love and appreciate art and history
My next project would be a publication on fake mosaics and the technique of the forgers.
My target was to lend the 24 pieces to various American museums in order to exhibit them temporarily , following a routine classic judicial and administrative procedure. For this I have requested the approval of the American judicial authorities, asking them to inspect these objects in the New Jersey warehouse. And it is then that I see the same US authorities arbitrarily seize the 24 exhibits in July 2021, followed by an indictment and a US arrest warrant against me in August 2022, and between the two dates: threats received from the US prosecutor Bogdanos on July 23, 20220:
“Dear Mr. Lotfi, …. No more excuses. No more delays. Sign it or don’t. But make the decision now so that everyone can see the true Georges Lotfi. Sign it and be a savior. Refuse to sign and be nothing more than a common thief.
Exhibit No 7-8
If I had agreed to sign, I would have been a « SAVIOR » if not : « A COMMON THIEF«
At no time I could imagine the turn they gave to this story and my words. The way that these two gentlemen have transformed the facts. (My honesty and the official documents in hand, give me the courage to face them)
Indeed, Robert Mancene wants to give the impression that he discovered something, but he forgets that I was the one who declared everything freely and even gave me the key of my warehouse: I had at no time wanted to hide anything, much more: it was I who invited him to my home and to my premises. I accepted the discussions and the zoom meetings when I could refuse them.
My mistake was that I have trusted people who did not deserve it.
To Matthew Bogdanos and Robert Mancene,
Thank you to both of you for giving me the opportunity to tell you the truth and to demonstrate to the judges and the world of collectors, your bad faith.
And to you Robert in taking the time to write these 36 pages which unfortunately do not reflet the reality or my words and it clearly reflects a miss interpretation of the facts in order to induce the judge and the people of unfounded statements
By your statements you have misled everyone: first the judges (Hon. Melissa T. Lewis) whom you asked to sign this judgment, then the journalists, the reporters, and the world. No one could imagine that your claims are contrary to the truth!!
Your behavior is criminal, and you should be responsible (I reserve the right to sue you and seek compensation and reparations).
By your thoughtless action and your uncontrollable ego, you have exceeded your prerogatives. I hope that Mr Elvin Bragg your supervisor will put an end to your wandering. Exhibit No. 9
On many occasions, I have told you that my name and my reputation are a red line, you have not respect anything and you distort my words and the reality. Is this a technique you use to provoke me? or you didn’t understand my English and I misunderstood yours??
I find today that I have the right to reply, and I do so in this open letter that will be broadcast. But where are the rights of the defence, the presumption of innocence, the secrecy of investigations, the statute of limitations, the non-retroactivity of laws, and the burden of proof, the basis of the Charter of Human Rights?
I am not going to use American lawyers who, apart from the enormous cost of their service, they will not dare to say things as I do today: the public will judge your actions.
Through a dogmatic vigilante approach, can the US prosecutor ignore or even distort the interpretation of Lebanese laws and arbitrarily set himself up as a judge, to designate at his discretion the owners of movable property acquired in good faith more than half a century ago?
Can the prosecutor be both: judge and party? Can he ignore ongoing proceedings in Lebanese courts and flout their sovereignty?
For readers who do not know Colonel Matthew Bogdanos and Mr. Robert Mancene: please refer to the end of this open letter: Exhibit No. 27 and 28
I will now briefly refute the various points of the affidavit:
- (C1) GOLD COFIN OF NEDJEMANKH:
My role was simply limited to the recognition of the object exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, as being the same that the one offered to me for very little money and that I refused to buy.
At their respective request, I put in direct contact the supplier and Mr Bogdanos who chatted live (my role was over. The informer has asked for pecuniary reward under US law, which Bogdanos refused. Exhibit No 10-11-12-13-14-15-16
- Criminal Possession of “Stolen Property”.
Your accusations are based on the fact that these objects were STOLEN . This is incorrect (and therefore cancels your indictment because simply there was no theft). All my objects were purchased from people holding an official permit from the Beirut Museum, giving them the right to trade in ancient and archaeological objects (Exhibit No. 17-18)
If suspicion of theft: why not ask for explanations to these suppliers or the government entity that issued them the permit?? (See further down below, the conditions applied to these licenses)
- (C2) Libyan antiquity: « the Madonna with the veiled face” belongs 100% to an old friend (see Exhibit No. 19 notarized document)
As for the objects seized in France, they have all the documents of provenance and Mr. Mancene would do better not to talk about it and respect the secret of the ongoing investigation outside the USA !
- (C3) Knelling Ruler or Priest: this bronze was sold to the Metropolitan in service to a Swiss friend, without any profit, given the proximity of my apartment to the Met and the relations I had with the various curators. (See document) In addition this bronze holds an official export document signed by the exporting country. I don’t see where is the problem ? Exhibit No. 20
- (C4) Ktisis Mosaic: The Ktisis Mosaic, was acquired in the 1960s (before the laws of the UNESCO). I sold it for very little money in Switzerland, to a famous collector Mr. Georges Ortiz in order to pay the rental of my warehouse, it ended at the Metropolitan and that’s where it should stay.
- Mosaic for sale at Ancient art international: this company sold decorative and unimportant objects on the web.
- The Palmyra stone :
According to the documents in hand, this high relief comes from an old Lebanese collection since 1974. This object was imported into the USA and released by customs and has ArtLoss Register.
In the exchanges with Mancene I declare this piece of which he had no idea.
According to Lebanese law, this sculpture being exported from Lebanon belongs to Lebanon and does not constitute a break into the laws of ownership of this Object.
Moreover, the Lebanese Ministry of Culture requests its repatriation as well as the 23 mosaics.
In this regard, in a previous email Bogdanos stated that the 24 pieces coming from Lebanon must be returned to Beirut. But it seems that he has changed his mind again. ( ???!!!) (See the request for the return of these parts requested by the Minister of the Lebanese culture as of 3/11/2021) Exhibit No 6/2
I have been collecting since my youth and if the laws have changed, they have no retroactive effect. Despite everything, I was able to obtain a judgment of the Lebanese Ministry of Culture, the State Council, the Beirut Museum and the agreement of the home security, all this confirmed by a civil judgment in my favor, recognizing officially all my collections. (File would be shared upon request)
Dear Matthew and Dear Robert:
I insist: these 24 pieces (23 mosaics and a white stone sculpture) were bought from licensed traders whose work according to specific rules:
- Yearly renewal of licenses, valid for one year
- Keeping a register ledger where all trade should be consigned in detail.
- Diligent control by the Lebanese Ministry of culture every year before the renewal of the permit
- Detailed description, provenances, and history of each object.
These 24 objects should have been consigned in their books !!!!!
5. I admire the gymnastics of these gentlemen and their so-called specialist who try to attribute the origins of these 23 mosaics!!
Al these 24 objects were not « smuggled » but declared to customs at the export, import, paid taxes, published in archaeological journals with ArtLoss Register documents…. And were even declared directly and insistently to Mr. Mancene and Bogdanos (see emails) Exhibit No 21-22-2 3-2 4-25-26
I am an educated man who loves and appreciates archaeology, and I can confirm that my approach to Bogdanos was decided on my own and aimed solely of serving the world of archaeology and safeguarding laws and preserving objects from destruction.
- Although acquired from the 60s, these artifacts were exported in the 1980’s during the Lebanese civil war and properly declared to export and import, were examined, paid taxes, and released.
- They have been kept up to date, in perfect condition: (I will hold these gentlemen responsible for any damage, which is certainly could be irreversible)
- The photos that Mancene refer to, are all montage photos
- Some of these pieces have been published and have ARTLOSS REGISTER
- The 3rd marble (which is around 40 cm Hight), was put it in the container to the attention of Mrs. Anne Marie Afeich, director of the Lebanese museum and to whom I announced the return before the arrival of the container back to Lebanon. Exhibit No. 27
- One question: why Bogdanos do not react against the looter of the fortress of Byblos and/or my mosaic suppliers, as they are known to him??
I would like to speak briefly about the abnormal evaluation of the objects:
The bull head sold for $3500 (three thousand five hundred) was valued at $20 million !!!
the bust worth no more than $20,000 valued at 10 million,
and the marble drape is worth « X » million.
I do not understand these incredible estimates !! is it to impress the public or to increase the gratification of these gentlemen of the ATU?
I attach to this letter the few emails chosen from the hundreds exchanged and this to demonstrate that all the remarks made against me are false and unjustified. Exhibit No. 27
I am waiting for a final judgment which must confirm the one already in hand, and which will clarify this situation. I admire the efforts of my friend Robert who was keeping saying: The defendant told me …. The defendant told me….
In fact, I remember the insistence he was asking me these questions and I have decided to answer him, politely: anything it came to my mind without really understanding his English.
The only thing for sure is that these 24 objects were acquired from licensed Lebanese dealers, exported from Lebanon and they should be returned to Lebanon.
Lebanese law will be applied and respected.
It’s easy to say that these pieces come from here and there, but the title holder must prove his ownership, their exact provenance and theft.
. I accuse this indictment of distorting reality and misinterpreting my words.
. I ask to discuss with Dr. Brian Rose the technical aspects.
. With all my respect, I ask ADA Taylor Holland to carefully study these allegations and not to be part of them
. I ask that the aspirants to the title of propriety of each of these 24 artifacts to prove their title by tangible evidence and not hypothetical assumptions.
. I reject this indictment in detail and overall, as not in accordance with reality.
. Under no circumstances the ATU can be a judge and a party at the same time
. Finally, I consider that these pieces were in transit in the USA and they have to be preserved from destruction. I request the official return of these artifacts to their country of origin: Lebanon, according to the express request of the Lebanese Ministry of Culture.
For those who wish: my email is « email@example.com«
I created a website dedicated to this event: « georgeslotfi.fr » on « WordPress » the public will be my judge.
After attacking Mr. Michael Steinhardt, they thought of adding Dr Georges Lotfi to their hunting board.
I consider that I am the victim of their outrageous ego.
Now that I have published part of the real facts, I hope that the reporters of the newspapers will rectify their storys. I am ready to answer any question.
I will notify personally and directly: Mrs. Julie Jacobs from the New York time, Mr. Vincent Noce from Art news, Mr. Michael Kaplan of New York Post and all those who have previously contacted me to know my position on these accusations, and to whom I could not answer.
This is my story: I leave the public alone judge of this incredible saga, and someone should stop these gentlemen of the ATU. I am ready for a public debate any time.
« I am quite confident, that armed with my pen, my honesty, and the strength of the laws, justice will prevail, and I will save my love to the art and the heritage of my country: Lebanon »
Lebanon is mentioned in the Bible 75 times: it has existed before most countries and will stay forever.
List of Documents :
- Pharmacist card
- Lebanese Law of 6/4/2022 No. 52/ م.ا.م /2022
- BL export of 25 mosaics of 24/10/1988
- Damage to the workshop in Lebanon
- Email to the Consulate of Lebanon of July 17, 2022
- Mail of Bogdanos of 22/7/2022
- Request to return the 24 pieces signed by the Minister of Culture
- Documents sent to Mr. Judge Elvin Bragg ESQ.
- 11. 12. 13. 14. 15.16 Mail Bogdanos concerning Abu Said and the sarcophagus
- License Mr. Farid Ziadeh
- License Mr. Muhammad al Haddad
- Notarial document by Mr. Aiello for the 100% ownership of Cyrenaica marble
- Document concerning the Kneeling prince 2006
- 22. 220.127.116.11. ArtLoss Register
27. Mr. Robert Mancene Special Agent Exhibit No 28
28. Colonel Matthew Bogdanos: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Bogdanos
28.mail de Bogdanos “… everything I do is confidential ….” Exhibit No 27
29. is anybody can tell me how I can contact “Hon. Melissa T. Lewis?