Tomb robber takes the stand in Marion True trial

Evidence of illegally excavated antiquities in the collection of Getty is presented in court



The latest hearing in the trial of the former Getty antiquities curator, Marion True, who is charged with conspiring to receive illegally excavated antiquities, took place in Rome on 17 January.

Pietro Casasanta, 68, a tomb robber from Anguillara Sabazia near Rome, took the stand. He told the court he had worked on “hundreds” of illegal digs over the years, excavating mostly Roman material. He said that some of the antiquities he had found had then passed through the hands of Robin Symes in London; other material went to Hicham and Ali Aboutaam of Phoenix Ancient Art. He says he has been to the warehouse of the Lebanese brothers which he described as “so large, I toured it on a motorcycle”.

Massimiliano Quagliarella of the Carabinieri’s art squad then presented evidence relating to a bronze statue of a boy, discovered at Fano, Southern Italy, and now in the collection of the Getty.

Lawyers for True argued that since the bronze was acquired in 1977, before Ms True joined the museum, it was irrelevant to the case. Federal prosecutor Maurizio Fiorilli intervened to say that in the case of this statue, True’s behaviour had been “correct” as she had sought additional information about the object’s provenance.

The presiding magistrate said that evidence related to the antiquities trade and not directly relevant to Ms True’s purchases for the Getty will be admissible in court if it helps to establish the behaviour of Ms True and her co-defendant, the Paris-based dealer Robert Hecht. The next hearing is set for 9 February.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Tomb robber takes the stand'