a 50-year-old Greek Cypriot, is regarded by eBay as one of its great success
stories. He claims he was even invited to sit on the eBay table at an awards
ceremony in London. His background is unusual for a dealer in antiquities.
In 2002 he resigned from his job as a gynaecologist at Hinchingbrooke hospital,
Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, after being suspended for two years following
complaints about his work.
He set up BidAncient, initially claiming his artefacts were from his familys private museum. He sells up to 30 antiquities a day and has attracted the attention of dealers and collectors who use the internet and who challenge some of his pieces authenticity.
Questions have been raised recently about his multiple sales of ancient Greek hoplite helmets. Paraskevaides acquired 35 of the helmets three years ago from a German collection and is satisfied that they are genuine.
Several of his critics suspect Paraskevaides of shill bidding on his items for sale. One, a Canadian dealer, claimed he knew of three associates bidding on behalf of Paraskevaides.
Last week an undercover reporter approached BidAncient posing as a seller wanting to sell his late grandfathers collection. Paraskevaides invited the reporter to his farmhouse in Godmanchester, near Huntingdon.
The reporter asked Paraskevaides for help in selling his relatives artefacts on eBay. Paraskevaides advised that he always sold goods starting at $1 without a reserve price.
He said: It works better putting everything with no reserve . . . if somebody thinks they are going to get something for nothing, theyre going to have a go.
The reporter asked how a seller could protect themselves from losing money on an item with no reserve price. Paraskevaides suggested shill bidding.
Reporter: Presumably you do it, do you? Paraskevaides: Well if I put something really expensive (up for sale) and I was concerned that it was going for nothing, I would phone a friend of mine, even a client of mine who buys from me, and say: For Christs sake, I sell you a 100 quids worth of items a week . . . just put two grand on it, will you? He added that if his friend won the item, the sale would never actually go through. But the device would have avoided the item being sold to a genuine buyer for less than he wanted.
There was another benefit: He doesnt pay. Just gives me feedback. Simple as that, he said. Sellers on eBay have a history displayed on the site that shows whether they have had an endorsement from each buyer.
Alternatively, the friends bid could bump up the price by prompting a higher offer from the genuine buyer. Paraskevaides gave another example:
Paraskevaides: Id say: Well whats the least Im prepared to sell this for? £1,000? I phone my friend and I say: Just put £1,000 on it.
Reporter: But then somebody might bid £1,200.
Paraskevaides: £1,100. Somebody who bids £1,100 is good.
Although Paraskevaides claimed he had no need to shill bid because his own sale items attracted sufficient attention, he had no hesitation in offering to help the reporter do so.
got people, he said. I mean Ive got some of my big clients
who buy big items off me, I look after them. So I can get on the phone
to America and say: Mr X . . . youre a multi- millionaire. You buy
100 grands worth off me a year. Do me a favour, would you.
There have already been a number of complaints to eBay about some artefacts being sold by BidAncient.
The day before the meeting, BidAncient sold a lion mosaic masterpiece on eBay for $1,900 (£970) claiming that the work dated back to AD 300. The sales literature noted the condition of the piece was excellent as it had been restored and reconstituted from ancient tessarae fragments and ancient tessarae.
During the meeting Paraskevaides referred to four Roman mosaics he had recently bought which he had described in a similar manner. He then admitted he wasnt sure whether the mosaics had been produced 2,000 years ago or whether some bastard has just filled them in with a sack of ancient stones and made a pattern out of them.
Last week The Sunday Times spoke to four collectors who had complained to eBay about Bid-Ancients artefacts. All claim they only received pro forma e-mail replies noting their complaints.Over the past month The Sunday Times has contacted a number of regular eBay users who claim to have reported what they believed were shill bids.Many say their complaints went unheeded or, at best, led to the offender being suspended briefly. Others say they were never told the result of eBays investigation.
Our research found a number of cases where there was clear breach of eBays shilling policy and all the sellers are still trading on the auction site.
They included Andy a second-hand car salesman who runs the Parkway Motor company in Thatcham, Berkshire. He made the mistake of using the same telephone number in two eBay identities which bought a van from each other. In the feedback he described his other ID (ie, himself) as a good eBayer.When approached last week, Andy said one of his eBay IDs had been suspended for six weeks last October. However, sales records show that his other ID kept trading over that period.
There was also evidence of bidding between a Bulgarian property company and associated British businessmen. One item a sauna bath was clearly a transaction between two companies registered at the same address. In other cases, a linked businessman was buying cheap land and properties.
Simon Balch, a
major eBay trader in general items, was suspended for a week by the auction
site after he bid on a large model car that he claims he was selling for
a friend of a friend.Balch,
who is an eBay silver powerseller, said the incident was a
misunderstanding but later confessed that he had previously bid on his
own items. Im not going to stand here and lie to you and say
that Ive never shill bidded in my life, because I have. And Im
sure that even though many people would say they havent, a lot of
them have. If you put something on at 50 quid or something and youve
paid 50 quid for it, you might feel a bit tempted to get it going a bit.
You know what Im saying. Obviously, I wouldnt do it again.
A poster company
in America was suspended for a week after being caught bidding on an item
from the same office selling it. Emovieposter.com claimed it was an employee
wanting the item for himself.
This weekend eBay insisted that its changes to bidder IDs had made it a safer environment for users who had previously been bombarded with fake offers after bidding for items. The company refused to comment on a number of issues raised by our investigation. It issued a statement saying: Shill bidding is strictly prohibited on eBay. If we become aware of suspicious activity on either an item or an account, then it is thoroughly investigated.
On Friday Paraskevaides
insisted he only sold artefacts he believed to be genuine and denied telling
the reporter he had been engaged in shill bidding or that he was immune
from action by eBay. But he said he had clients who if it ever happened
that something was going really, really cheap, they would put a bid themselves
to protect it. He added: If you are asking me whether I would
personally shill bid now, the answer is no.
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