London firm blocks Iranian bid to claim ‘Lost Paradise’ treasures

London-based firm Lane & Partners has landed a High Court ruling that means the Iranian government cannot reclaim ancient treasures of its ‘Lost Paradise’ that were allegedly smuggled out of Iran.

The Islamic Republic of Iran claimed that chlorite vessels, which date as far back as 3,000 BC, had been illegally excavated from the ancient city of Jiroft, the Lost Paradise, which was discovered in 2001 when a river burst its banks, exposing the site.

The government then claimed the artefacts were smuggled out of Iran into the hands of the Barakat Gallery in London and Los Angeles. Iran argued that, under its laws, it owns the treasures and demanded they be returned.

The Barakat Gallery, however, insisted that it had acquired the artefacts in good faith. It also maintained that there was no proof that these particular vessels came from the Lost Paradise.

Mr Justice Gray in his judgment concurred with the defendant and said the Iranian government was not the owner of antiquities dating back 5,000 years, adding that its claim was not justiciable under English law.

Litigation partners Ludovic de Walden and Sophie Eyre from Lane & Partners instructed Philip Shepherd QC and David Herbert, both of XXIV Old Buildings, for the Barakat Gallery.

The counsel for the Iranian government were Hodge Malek QC and Tony Oakley, both of 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square. They were instructed by partner Jeremy Scott from Withers.