The Chinese Government, it appears, was behind a fraud to con a British family out of the £50 million sale of an eighteenth century Chinese vase, experts suspect. When a retired solicitor and his elderly mother sold the Qing Dynasty antique they had found in a house clearance, they thought their fortunes were made and their future looked rosy. However, four months later the shadowy buyer has not paid a penny of the sale price and it is suspected he was a stooge for the Chinese government who wanted to sabotage the auction.
The sale made headlines around the world as the vase was poised to make such an enormous price – but it now seems that the family may have to sell the 1740 vase once more.
The auction took place at Bainbridge's auction house in west London. Bainbridge's has contacted the agent representing the buyer in order to demand that the monies due be transferred: however, the deadline came and went and no money was forthcoming.
Some ten years ago the Chinese established a Lost Cultural Relics Recovery Programme. This operates to either buy back antiques from auction houses around the world – or to wreck the trade in them by sabotaging auctions with fake buyers!
Christie's Paris auction house recently sold a number of bronze animal heads taken from the Summer Palace in 1860. They were bought by a Chinese government employee for £13 million – but he then refused to pay up as 'an act of patriotism'.
The vase which featured at Bainbridge's was believed to have been brought to Britain by a relative of the family after many Chinese palaces were looted during the Opium Wars in the nineteenth century.
Mr Bainbridge insists that the deal still holds good, that there is no problem with the sale and that the stories regarding sabotage are not true. Whether the family will see the cash from the sale or whether they will have to sell the vase all over again is still a matter of debate. Can you imagine, though, the excitement of finding, gaining a valuation and then potentially selling such a valuable piece for £50 million?
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