Aristophil, the scandal-hit French company that amassed the world’s largest private collection of manuscripts, has been liquidated and its stock will be put up for sale. The 5 August judgment in the Commercial Court, Paris, was based on its “complete insolvency”.
The company’s accounts were frozen in November 2014 by state prosecutors, who described Aristophil as a type of Ponzi scheme (in which existing investors are paid by new investors, rather than out of profits). A mansion owned by the company in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris, was sold in July for around €28m, the proceeds of which went to Aristophil’s bank, Société Générale.
In March, Gérard Lhéritier, Aristophil’s founder, was arrested and placed under investigation, alongside others, and charged with fraud, money laundering, creating false accounts and embezzlement. He was released on bail of €2m. Investors are alleged to have incurred total losses of around €850m.
Lhéritier denies the charges and calls the liquidation of his company a “complete mess, set up by a small gang of civil servants”, whom he says want his collection for the state archives. He says that he still intends to set up a company to manage and sell parts of Aristophil’s stock.
Aristophil has an inventory of 54 manuscript collections (around 135,000 documents), in which nearly 18,000 investors bought shares. These include fragments from the Dead Sea scrolls, medieval illuminated manuscripts and the Marquis de Sade’s 120 days of Sodom (1785).
Conducting a full inventory of the company’s collection is expected to take several years.
To see our earlier coverage of Aristophil, click on the headlines below: