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Police Scotland chief in gold wreath legal wrangle

The British Museums gold wreath, circa 350-300 BC, similar to the one at the centre of the row

The British Museums gold wreath, circa 350-300 BC, similar to the one at the centre of the row

  • by CHRIS MARSHALL
 

SCOTLAND’S most senior police officer is involved in a bizarre legal wrangle over the ownership of a gold wreath dating from the 4th century BC.

Sir Stephen House, the Chief Constable of Police Scotland, is cited as the pursuer in a legal action to establish ownership of the item, which is said to have been used as a funeral gift for royalty or nobility during the time of Alexander the Great and is made of 92 to 93 per cent “ancient gold”.

Police said the wreath was seized from a business premises during an operation in Edinburgh in 2010.

A legal notice which appeared in connection with the Court of Session case names Sir Stephen as the pursuer.

Murat Aksakalli, of Northfield Grove, Edinburgh, and the Turkish government are named as the defenders.

There was no answer at Mr Aksakalli’s home address yesterday. A member of staff who answered the phone at an Edinburgh cafe where he was once the proprietor said he had not been seen for some time.

The Turkish embassy in London said it was unaware of the case, but had passed the matter to the cultural attaché.

The legal notice relates to a “multiplepoinding”, an action by which conflicting claims to the same property are settled.

It reads: “An action of multiplepoinding has been brought in the Court of Session, Edinburgh by Stephen House, the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Scotland, pursuer, in respect of an authentic golden wreath dating from the 4th century BC, used as a funeral gift for royalty or nobility and comprised of 92-93 per cent ancient gold.”

On the order of Lord Brailsford, anyone who wishes to make a claim on the item has until 1 May to do so.

There are few details available of the wreath. However, a similar piece is in the collections of the British Museum. The museum’s piece dates from 350-300BC and is a golden wreath of oak leaves and acorns.

According to the museum’s experts, wreaths were left in burial sites in Macedonia, southern Italy and Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) from the fourth century BC onwards.

The Greek orator Demosthenes (384-322 BC) wrote that the fragile gold wreaths were worn for certain religious ceremonies.

The inventories of Greek temples and sanctuaries also show that large numbers of gold wreaths were left as dedications.

A spokesman for Police Scotland said: “We can confirm that this item was seized in 2010 during a police operation at business premises in Edinburgh.

“The item is being held by Police Scotland until ownership can be determined by the Court of Session.”

A spokeswoman for Morton Fraser, the law firm which is representing the police, declined to comment on the case.

 

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