Top cop goes for gold after top prosecutor dropped case. A POLICE STING culminating in arrests of persons negotiating the sale of a 2,500 year old gold crown at the premises of Edinburgh law firm Balfour & Manson has led to a court fight involving Chief Constable Sir Stephen House of Police Scotland who wants to establish ownership of the ancient relic. The increasingly political case, heard by judge Lord Brailsford comes even though the Lord Advocate dropped any prosecution against the Turkish cafe owner who claims ownership of the gold artefact and is adamant the item is a family heirloom.
Chief Constable House has hired private law firm Morton Fraser to pursue the case at taxpayers expense, in an effort - legal experts say appears to be solely focused on handing back the treasure to the Turkish Government - even though Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland ordered the item returned to Murat Aksukalli after all charges relating to the swoop on the lawyer’s office in 2010 were dropped.
AND. in spite of attempts by vested interests to hinder public access to information of the court case, a Fife based transparency campaigner & amateur historian - Tom Minogue, has identified the wreath as one looted from a Greek tomb by the Earl of Elgin, famous for the Elgin Marbles. Mr Minogue has submitted evidence to the court and has written about it on his website here: The Gold Wreath riddle
The Scottish Sun newspaper published a highly detailed investigation into the affair:
EXCLUSIVE By RUSSELL FINDLAY Investigations Editor Scottish Sun 15 June 2014
UNDERCOVER detectives nabbed a Turkish cafe boss as he tried to sell them a 2,500-year-old gold crown — worth a staggering £1million. Murat Aksakalli claimed the stunning ancient relic had been left to him by his grandfather.
But police believe the precious artefact known as the Edinburgh Crown was looted from Turkey and should be returned. They launched a sting operation and Aksakalli was held as he tried to flog the intricate decorative wreath at a lawyers office in Edinburgh.
A source said they could make a movie out of this and call it Indiana Jones and the Edinburgh Crown. "Its an incredible saga involving a Turkish wheeler dealer, an undercover police sting, the chief constable and the Lord Advocate. The crown is now being held at Police Scotland's Edinburgh HQ as a legal battle is fought over its future.
A Turkish government report claims the treasure may have been plundered from a tomb in the ancient city of Milas between 2000 and 2010.
But 50 year old Aksakalli insists he inherited the controversial antiquity from his grandfather Fazil Aksakalli who died in rural Cemisgezek. And he claims he can prove he had the relic before the ancient tomb was raided.
He said: "I kept it tor years and forgot about it" "The police said that I went to Turkey in 2010 and just started digging and found it"
His lawyer Aamer Anwar added "Just because the Turkish Government say anything remotely connected to them belongs to them doesn't mean that's right in our legal system"
Aksakalli decided to sell the beautifully crafted crown when his cash and carry company hit financial problems. And two of his business associates Ali Sanal and Hakki Ozbey also helped in the attempt to find a buyer. They approached experts at posh auction houses Sotheby's and Bonhams in Edinburgh.
And Aksakalll claims that a police officer friend of his, Lawson Porter also spoke to the National Museum of Scotland about the ancient head decoration on his behalf.
But their activity caught the attention of the now defunct Serious Organised Crime Agency and an undercover cop was deployed in a sting operation. The officer going under the name Ahmed Shakur met Aksakalli it the Hilton and Marriot hotels in Edinburgh and asked to see the crown.
A third meeting was then arranged at the office of bluechip law firm Balfour & Manson in October 2010. Police swooped on the talks in in the city centre and Aksakalli, Sanal and Ozbey were held and the crown taken by detectives.
One source revealed "The official valuation for the purpose of the court action is £225,000 but the true value is thought to be £1million". "It's become known as the Edinburgh Crown because it was found in the capital".
There is no suggestion Balfour-Manson were involved in any wrongdoing. Following the raid Turkish embassy officials met with Detective Superintendent David Gordon and Lindsay Miller, head of the Crown Office 's organised crime division. They claimed the valuable object belonged to their country and demanded its return.
In December 2012, Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland decided there would be no criminal proceedings against Aksakalli. But months later he agreed to send the crown to Turkey for seven days to undergo forensic analysis. An expert there concluded that the ornate metal wreath - which his decorated with 50 myrtle leaves and flowers - probably came from a Milas tomb and dated to around 350BC.
But in another twist, an amateur historical claims the golden crown may have been looted from Greece in the 19th century by the Earl of Elgin - famous for taking the sculptures from the Parthenon in Athens now known as the Elgin Marbles. Campaigner Tom Minogue found Elgin had bragged about discovering a golden wreath matching the description of the disputed relic seized in Edinburgh,
He has now joined the legal battle being fought over the crown, claiming it could be the same ancient artefact which was mentioned by Elgin. And he is demanding that the experts in Greece be allowed to examine the antiquity as well - just like the Turkish have already done.
Retired engineering businessman Tom said "There seems to have been a rush to judgement by the Police and the Lord Advocate who determined that a gold wreath was Turkish for no other reason than because the person in possession of it said so and happened to be a UK national of Turkish birth.
"There was no claim of any such gold wreath having been plundered from Turkey other than an unspecified generalisation. "This airy-fairy reasoning by the Turks has caused the Scottish authorities to send the gold wreath to Turkey, during which the Turks were allowed to do anything with it as they wished, without hinderance".
"The question of ownership of the golf wreath should be dealt with in an open, fair and unbiased manner, recognising the fact that Greece, the country that taught the world the meaning of democracy, deserves equal treatment to Turkey in the eyes of the law"
Last night Police Scotland confirmed the crown was still being held while the legal battle over its future continues. A spokesman said: "This item was seized in 2013 during a police operation at business premises in Edinburgh. "It is being held until ownership can be determined by the court"
RIDDLE OF LOST ROYAL WREATH
By Russell Findlay
THE intricate golden artefact dubbed the Edinburgh Crown is thought to date from around 35OBC. It features thin branches wound around a wreath with around 50 delicate myrtle leaves and rosettes.
The relic is crafted from 98 to 99.5 per cent pure ancient gold and would have been placed in a tomb in either Greece or Turkey. And experts believe the treasure could be worth up to £1 million.
The Edinburgh Crown is very similar to one unearthed in the Piraeus in Athens by the Earl of Elgin in the 19th century.His discovery was recorded in a book about the aristocrat’s travels in Greece.
Elgin presented to parliament a list of the items that he had removed from the country.But missing from this list in 1811 was the gold wreath. The Earl speculated that the crown may have come from a site known as the tomb of Aspasia.
HISTORY & MYSTERIES 350BC Gold crown is buried in royal tomb in Greece or Turkey.
1816 Lord Elgin sells Greek artefacts to the UK but a gold wreath he discovered is missing. 1982 Aksakalli claims he inherits gold wreath from grandfather. 1989 He moves from Turkey to Scotland and claims he later brings over the treasure. 2000-2010 Looting takes place at archaeological ruins in ancient Milas, Turkey 2004 Campaigner Tom Minogue urges Fife Police to probe items taken from Greece by Elgin, including a gold wreath. 2007 Aksakalli begins exploring attempts to sell the crown. SEPT 2010 He meets potential buyer who is actually an undercover cop. OCT 2010 Aksakalli is arrested. 2011 Scots police and prosecutors meet Turkish officials. 2012 Lord Advocate drops case against Aksakalli. MAR 2013 Crown sent to Turkey for analysis, then returned. MAR 2014 Police go to court to try to legally obtain wreath and hand it to Turkey. APRIL 2014 Minogue lodges legal claim that crown may be the one taken by Elgin.
CHIEF CONSTABLE IN COURT:
Top Cop goes for gold. Redacted documents relating to the civil action raised by the Chief Constable of Police Scotland over the gold wreath have now been released by the Scottish Courts.
The Chief Constable’s pleadings in court revealed: “In or around July 2010 Lothian and Borders Police received information that two men were believed to be in possession of a stolen golden wreath of Turkish origin and were attempting to sell it. On 5 October 2010 the first defender, along with Ali Sanal and Hakki Ozbey, was detained at the offices of Balfour & Manson, solicitors, 54-66 Frederick Street, Edinburgh on suspicion of reset. The three suspects were in possession of the fund in medio and were attempting to secure its sale. All three are Turkish nationals.”
“At interview the first defender asserted ownership of the fund in medio. The first defender and said Sanal and Ozbey were released without charge pending further inquiries. A report was submitted to the Procurator Fiscal. The pursuer retained possession of the fund in medio on the instructions of the Procurator Fiscal.”
“On 27 December 2012 the Lord Advocate instructed that no criminal proceedings would be taken against the first defender, or any other person, in respect of the fund in medio due to an insufficiency of evidence. The Lord Advocate instructed that the fund in medio should be returned to its owner.”