SAN JOSE: An art dealer has thrown a spanner into the move by the Department of Justice (DoJ) to seize a painting by Monet, said by the DoJ to be owned by Jho Low.
David Nahmad filed an affidavit Wednesday in the US District Court in California claiming that he was the rightful owner of Monet’s 1914-17 “Waterlilies With Reflections of Tall Grass”.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Nahmad said in the affidavit that he had won the Monet for about USD13.6 million at a Sotheby’s London auction in February 2013.
“My painting has been solely owned and possessed by me since its purchase up to the present time,” said Monte Carlo-based Nahmad in the court document.
The DoJ is seeking the forfeiture of about USD1 billion worth of assets – including four artworks by Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet – allegedly owned by the Malaysian financier Jho Low.
DoJ court filings allege that Low bought the art using money believed to be stolen from 1Malaysia Development Bhd.
The Wall Street Journal reached Nahmad by phone late Wednesday in Paris where he was attending an art fair but he declined to elaborate on the matter except to say the US government’s attempted seizure of the Monet was “a mistake.” The WSJ said his New York lawyer, Aaron Richard Golub, declined to comment, too.
Erica Lacy, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, also declined to comment “beyond what is alleged in the forfeiture complaints,” the WSJ reported.
Low didn’t reply to an emailed request for comment, it added.
According to the WSJ, an invoice cited in the US government’s July 20 complaint suggests that in early 2014, Nahmad did attempt to sell the Monet to Low.
On April 19, 2014, Low emailed Nahmad, offering to make a USD2.25 million deposit towards the purchase of the Monet for USD22.5 million as well as for another Venetian scene by the same artist, according to the US government’s filing.
The filing said USD2.25 million was wire-transferred to Nahmad’s bank account four days later.
Nahmad’s affidavit posits a deal wasn’t ultimately done, adds the WSJ report.
Nahmad’s affidavit said he planned to contest the seizure of the Monet in a formal complaint sometime before Nov 7.