Calif. retrial begins in battle for giant emerald
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A dispute over an 840-pound (381-kilogram) emerald was renewed Monday in a Los Angeles courtroom with a judge trying to decide if a businessman is the rightful owner to the gem that has been appraised at $372 million.
An attorney representing one of three parties staking claim to the rare Bahia Emerald made his arguments in the non-jury retrial, according to City News Service. Lawyer Steven Smith said his client Anthony Thomas paid $60,000 for the emerald but he never received the jewel and thought it had been stolen.
A judge in April 2011 tentatively dismissed Thomas’ claim, saying his story was simply not credible. The judge was later sworn in as a federal district judge and replaced by current Judge Michael Johnson who declared a mistrial because he wanted to hear the case himself and make an independent ruling.
After Johnson makes his ruling on Thomas’ rights, another trial will take place to determine the claims of gem buyer Mark Downie and business Ferrara Morrison Holdings. Attorneys for both parties said Thomas never insured the emerald and doesn’t have a receipt for its purchase.
“He (Thomas) is not credible for any one of a great number of reasons,” lawyer Browne Greene said on behalf of Ferrara Morrison Holdings. “There was no legal action taken by Mr. Thomas until he jumped in on someone else’s lawsuit.”
The Bahia is one of the world’s largest emeralds with about 180,000 carats and stands about three feet (90 centimeters) tall. The gem has had a long, circuitous journey since Thomas had himself photographed with it in a carport in Brazil in 2001.
It was later said to have been stored at a warehouse in New Orleans that was flooded during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and then stolen from another warehouse in the Los Angeles suburb of El Monte. It was sighted briefly in Idaho before authorities finally seized it in Las Vegas in 2008.
The gem is now being held in storage by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department until the case is resolved.