We wrote about old Chinese vase which was discovered during a routine clear-out of a bungalow in northwest London and sold at the auction for an incredible amount. Now, the seller of the same antique vase that was auctioned for £53million has flown to China in a final attempt to persuade the winning bidder to pay up.
Retired solicitor Anthony Johnson, 54 and his mother Gene, 85 sold a 1740 Qing vase five months ago, but the ‘buyer’ still has not paid a penny to them. Last week Mr Johnson, from the Isle of Wight, and Peter Bainbridge, the owner of the auction house in Ruislip, West London, that sold the vase, flew out to meet the buyer, said to be a ‘wealthy industrialist’ in Shanghai with links to China’s government. There is a strong suspicion that they may be the latest victims of a plot by the Chinese government to sabotage auctions involving antiques once stolen from its country by sending bidders to buy the artefact but then failing to stump up the money. Mr Bainbridge has denied that the auction was sabotaged.
Asked about possible sabotage, Mr Bainbridge said: ‘I can tell you that is categorically wrong. I know everything about the deal. I know who the buyer is.’
In 2002 the Chinese government set up the Lost Cultural Relics Recovery Program to reclaim artefacts. In some cases, it buys back antiques. But in 2009, when Christie’s in Paris sold bronze animal heads looted from the Summer Palace in 1860, a Chinese buyer – an adviser to a government heritage organisation – made a winning bid of £13m but said he would not pay as “an act of patriotism”.
An antiques source said payment for the Qing vase should have been made by 9 February.
Mr Johnson, 54, and his mother Gene, 85, inherited the 16in porcelain vase from her sister, Patricia Newman, in January 2010. It had belonged to Mrs Newman’s husband Bill and was said to have been brought back from China by an ‘adventurer uncle’ of his.