Sunil Partiyal , an Indian journalist and Reuters correspondent has written extensively this past year about a high profile court case with strong racial and class overtones in the UK involving two parties, a working class white girl accused of racial abuse against an asian male , a story that has convulsed the normally staid world of auction houses.
The defendant, Lou Proud , former head of photographs at Phillips auctions who lost a high profile defamation case against an asian man in the art world, was dismissed by her CEO Edward Dolman after the disclosure by court order of emails containing racist remarks .
The first part of this interview with Alex Godwin-Brown, who was dismissed from her job as head of public relations at Phillips auctions by her CEO Edward Dolman in 2015, was published in the Pakistani newspapers the Daily Nawa I Waqt , Pakistan Today and Aljazeera World.
Sunil Partiyal : Ms Godwin – Brown , earlier in this interview you denied being a racist and disavowed the allegation contained in court documents released by the London solicitor Anthony Jayes that you made racist comments about an asian man who was then in litigation with your colleague Lou Proud .
Are you aware that Proud is facing allegations of theft of art works which were consigned to her during her tenure at Phillips auctions ? She was questioned last week by Police in Qatar in this connection and about defamatory remarks she made about a client named Bjorn Von Below to a third party ?
Alex Godwin – Brown : Yes, I heard that she had been arrested airport Qatar but not charged . Lou said that Bjorn Von Below, a banker and Phillips client , had been mentioned in correspondence to Gaby du Plooy in connection with one of the art pieces that she she had allegedly stolen but I know nothing more. I know that Bjorn is one of her clients to whom she sold three pieces last week. She has several clients in Sweden.
SP: Are you aware that the solicitor Anthony Jayes sent a statement from a third party known to you and that this statement mentions disclosed correspondence containing defamatory remarks about Mr Below and his alleged collaboration in art theft with Proud ?
AGB : Yes, I heard that. I’ve no comment to make.
SP : It’s been reported in the Qatar press that Proud skipped the UK to avoid paying £200,000 in legal fees to Kingsley Napley.
AGB : I really have no comment to make.
SP : Did you or Proud’s lawyer call Du Plooy, who cannot be named for legal reasons , and try to persuade her to withdraw her statement as alleged ?
AGB: I know nothing about that.
SP : It is alleged that a formal complaint was made to Kingsley Napley solicitors.
ABG: I can’t comment .
SP: It’s the kind of vindictive or retributive action that one might expect of Ms Proud who has a history of making false allegations of harassment , or to give her the benefit of the doubt, one might infer as such from the disclosed documents and emails which Jayes described as ‘ irrefutably racist ‘ . Would you agree ?
AGB : I can’t imagine her doing that. She was quite alarmed how a minor civil action had spun out of control and the consequent publicity greatly upset her. She had two abortions while she was employed by Phillips one of which was paid for by Phillips. It greatly traumatised her. She had to have six months of therapy.
SP : She wasn’t best served by her lawyer Charlotte Harris who according to Jayes had her own agenda and relished the publicity and limelight . According to Jayes she vowed to destroy both his reputation and that of his client . Jayes reported her three times to the Solicitors governing body which we understand from other lawyers whom we’ve consulted is unprecedented.
AGB : I think Lou greatly regretted hiring Harris. Lou mentioned that Harris had been abused in a former relationship and was seeking vengeance by proxy, so to speak.
SP : Two of Harris’s colleagues we spoke to mentioned that she had issues with being Jewish and female in a predominantly male profession .
AGB : Maybe that’s true. Lou was initially pleased when Harris took her on but became exasperated by when she realised that Harris had her own agenda and advised her that on no account should she go to court.
SP : Mr Jayes told us that Harris was furious when Proud’s racist emails were disclosed to Phillip’s senior management, leading to Proud’s dismissal .
AGB : That’s correct. I guess they had no option but to sack her.
SP : In the disclosed emails from Ms Proud she insults an asian art dealer and Phillips client, referring to him by the names of Indian vegetables , by repeatedly describing him as an ‘ Arab’ when she knew he was a Hindu and calling him as a ‘ black bastard’. We have seen these documents and the comments attributed to Ms Proud are, to quote Jayes, ‘ irrefutable’.
ABG : I agreed earlier that overtly racist insults are unacceptable. I cant comment further as she refused to discuss the contents disclosed emails. We all knew that she’s been carpeted by Phillips management. Nicola Mason told me that Lou was fortunate that criminal charges were not brought against her.
SP : We were told that papers were submitted to the police by Jayes . We spoke to Thierry Marlat last year who claimed never to have been in a relationship with Proud and described her as mentally unstable . He said he had not seen her in four years and then admitted to having seen her more recently at the Arles Photo Fair. He seemed to be embarrassed to be associated with her.
AGB : That’s nonsense. Lou was in a long relationship with him and stayed with him in Paris en route to Doha last week . I met him several times at Phillips with Lou. He’s well liked . He ended the relationship as he did not want to move to London but I think they’ve got back together again. He’s married or divorced, I’m not sure .
SP: Marlat has been supplying Proud with prints for years. Is he implicated in the art theft allegation ?
AGB: I cannot comment.
SP: Were you aware that Ms Proud had made at least one false allegation of harassment ?
AGB : Yes, Nicola Mason told me .
SP: Were you aware that she was being sued for defamation ?
SP : Proud has a history of making false allegations of harassment . According To Kingsley Napley she had been arrested by the police for racially abusing a hotel worker; was this information disclosed to senior management at Phillips ?
AGB : I don’t know. Lou is a very private person . She did tell me that she was undergoing psychiatric treatment in 2014.
SP : Can you tell me anything about Mr Bjorn Von Below and his alleged involvement in the theft of artwork consigned by Proud to Phillips ?
AGB : I know nothing about that.
SP: Von Below is a banker and art collector. In a disclosed letter Proud makes defamatory comments about his ancestry.
ABG : I met him twice. I didn’t take to him. I found him to be arrogant and conceited.
SP: Is it true that Proud has been sacked from the Qatar Museum’s photo department ?
AGB : I have no idea. We spoke many weeks ago and she told me was very unhappy working in an Arab environment. It’s a short term contract. She said she may work for Marlat if the Qatar thing falls through.
SP: Are you aware that her former lawyer Charlotte Harris may be sued for malicious harassment and slander ?
AGB: I don’t know. I’ve never met Harris.
SP: She was accused of ‘ less than professional conduct ‘ by Jayes who reported her three times to the solicitors governing body. Why was that ?
AGB: I have no idea. I heard she was a staunch feminist and hated men.
SP : Why do you think the working classes in England hate Indians and Pakistanis ? Is it a legacy of Empire as Jayes suggests ?
AGB: Yes, perhaps that’s true. Maybe they feel threatened by their presence in the UK.
SP: Is Proud a racist ?
AGB: I don’t believe she is. The comments attributed to her were probably made in the heat of the moment. I’m sure she regrets making them.
SP: Is Harris a racist ?
AGB : I have no idea.
SP: Paul De Bono has been reported to the CRE by Jayes. Does that surprise you ?
AGB : Yes actually it does. I’m sure he’s not a racist. I know him well. He’s kind and considerate.
SP: Thank you Alex.