Concern as stolen French treasures ‘sold on eBay’

Authorities in France are growing increasingly concerned after a report revealed that hundreds of valuable items including artworks and furniture are still missing from presidential residences. Historic state-owned porcelain recently appeared on eBay, according to one report.

Concern as stolen French treasures 'sold on eBay'
Visitors take photos of some of valuable objects, some of which have been going missing and ending up on the website eBay. Photo: Francois Guillot/AFP

Pressure is increasing on the French government to improve its efforts to prevent theft and recover objects stolen from its presidential residences after a recent annual inventory revealed that 32 works of art and 625 pieces of furniture were missing.

According to some media reports items from the Elysée Palace as well as from the presidential residences at La Lanterne, near Versailles and Fort de Bregançon in the south, have ended up on the online auction site eBay.

The Court of Auditors, who produced the latest report, has repeatedly highlighted problems with the management of France’s numerous "treasures", Socialist lawmaker Rene Dosiere, a specialist in public finances, told Le Figaro recently.

“This time they published shocking figures (on the missing pieces). But they are lower than what has been noted in the past,” Dosiere said.

In response to the issue France’s culture ministry has been forced to set up an online database, called Sherlock, where missing items are supposed to be reported.

But officials say they cannot reliably trace when the missing objects disappeared.

Concerns were raised even further when according to Le Figaro, France’s interior ministry discovered ornate pieces made by France’s renowned Sevres porcelain factory on eBay.

They were believed to have been taken from the Elysee Palace by a “military attache from the 1950s who had a habit of giving them away as gifts,” according to the newspaper.

France’s museums regularly lend artworks to the presidential palace and other residences while furniture and textiles are provided by the Mobilier National.

The government keeps an inventory of pieces but it’s only checked every five years. The most recent figures are from 2007 and numbers for 2012 won’t be ready until the autumn of 2014.

It's not just items that are going missing that has caused problems for the Elysée Palace.

“The auditors also point out that there are around €500,000 of restoration and maintenance costs per year for the furnishings of the presidential residences," said Dosiere.

Some of those repair costs could have been to pay for several pieces of furniture, which reportedly fell victim to former President Nicolas Sarkozy's dogs.

The Mediapart website reported last month reported that Sarkozy's mutts had gnawed several pieces of furniture in the Elysée Palace, costing several thousand euros to repair and billed to the taxpayer in 2012.

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