Christie’s auction house in London revealed nub of documentation – but lawyers said documents are ‘privileged’
An Italian man tried to use a fake arm to avoid vaccination for hepatitis, if the London auction house Christie’s can be believed.
The auction house published a document, drawn from a nub of paperwork of historical importance, that claims that a Robert Motte of Sulmona, Italy, born in 1868, received two hepatitis vaccinations in the 1950s. He was 75.
Citing unidentified sources, the auction house said the documents were prepared for scientific use as recently as 2005.
“The sales office in Taormina thought there was an authentic record that Robert Motte wrote to Doctors Without Borders,” Christie’s said.
But Deborah Woods of the John Lloyd legal firm representing Motte, told the Guardian that neither the materials nor the paperwork were “technically authentic”, and were allegedly provided by an adviser to Doctors Without Borders.
Woods said the document contains “technically problematic” items that must have been created by “a person who is going to do things differently”.
“What is actually going on is that in 1969 a girl told him that she had been shot by doctors during the civil war and that she had hepatitis and that he said to her, ‘They are not to take your parents’ permission to take the children any more’,” she said.
Woods said that this was not what happened, and that the sale document was “privileged”. It is up to court to decide whether the items should be considered open to public inspection and historical documentary evidence.
The auction house said that after the report of the allegedly authentic documents was published in July, it received a letter from Motte’s wife, Florence, in which she explained that she was married to Motte from 1945 until his death in 2005. In the letter, she wrote that the document “reads as if it is authentic and reproduces a document which he never wrote, even to his lawyers”.
Christie’s said the two syringes involved had a normal use and that the syringes were not contaminated.
A spokesman said it is Christie’s belief that a certified medical advisor to Doctors Without Borders, George Karpinski, presented the documents as part of the materials that the advisory firm used to secure contracts with Doctors Without Borders.
It is unclear why Karpinski chose to submit the documents to Christie’s for auction, and how the auction house was told he had provided the records.
A phone bid for the syringes ended in a draw on Thursday night, and was unavailable for comment. The auction house confirmed that the records were genuine, but was unable to say whether they had been verified by a doctor.
Christie’s said it does not know if the seller of the documents is actually Motte, and therefore could not evaluate his claim. Woods said that the provenance of the documents were unclear.
A few minutes after the auction began, telephone bidders entered a draw for the syringes. The winning bid, made on speakerphone by a person who identified himself as “Gazza”, was £8,525.