The curator of antiquities for the J. Paul Getty Museum bought a vacation home in the Greek islands after one of the museum's main suppliers of ancient art introduced her to a lawyer who arranged a nearly $400,000 loan.
The Getty said in a statement Saturday evening that the curator, Marion True, had resigned after museum officials confronted her about the loan, which she obtained in 1995.
The statement, released in response to questions from The Times, said the loan breached museum policy, which requires employees to report even the appearance of a conflict of interest.
"The Getty has determined through its own investigation that Marion True failed to report certain aspects of her Greek house purchase transaction in violation of Getty policy," the statement said. "In the course of the Getty's discussions with Ms. True on this matter, she chose voluntarily to retire."
True, 56, faces trial in an Italian court on charges that she conspired with dealers who were trafficking in looted antiquities. In its statement, the Getty said she was retiring to devote her full energies to her defense.
Internal Getty records obtained by The Times show that museum officials knew three years ago about the loan True obtained for the vacation home. The Getty declined comment on the documents.
Italian authorities say Interpol in Greece is investigating the loan.
True bought the property in 1995, paying about $400,000 for the white villa in a walled compound covering an acre of land on Paros, a picturesque island that is a popular vacation destination.
In purchasing the property, True had trouble finding financing. American banks wouldn't lend money on Greek property, and Greek banks refused to give loans to foreigners.
True discussed her desire to purchase the home with Christo Michailidis, an art dealer based in London. He and his partner, Robin Symes, were at the time among the Getty's biggest suppliers of Greek, Roman and Etruscan antiquities.
Michailidis put her in touch with Dimitri Peppas, a lawyer with offices in the port of Athens. Peppas then arranged a loan for True. The loan was made through an entity called the Sea Star Corp. and deposited into a Swiss bank account, records show. The records do not identify the original source of the funds.
Harry Stang, True's attorney, said last month that Michailidis had done nothing more than introduce True to Peppas.
"To Ms. True's knowledge, neither Mr. Symes nor any member of the Michailidis family was involved in obtaining the loan for her, save for Mr. Michailidis' introduction to Mr. Peppas," Stang said.
He said Michailidis, now deceased, described Peppas to True as a "financier for Greek shipping companies."
Stang released a letter True wrote to Peppas in June 1996 in which she informed him that she had arranged a 20-year mortgage from a New York bank affiliated with the National Bank of Greece. She discussed repayment of the loan Peppas had arranged.
"You must know how grateful I am to you for helping me to purchase the house in Greece, but as you can imagine, the longer period of time will make the repayment process much easier for me," she wrote to Peppas. True added she would be on Paros for the summer and "I hope to lure you and Lia to visit me!"
Stang also released a check for $386,286 to the Sea Star Corp., showing that True repaid the loan in July 1996.
In announcing True's resignation, Getty officials declined to say what aspects of the museum's ethics policy True might have violated. However, the museum's conflict-of-interest rules require employees to disclose "any transaction that would create even the appearance of favoritism." The policy also prohibits "owing money to or borrowing money from any supplier or dealer or from an individual or firm ... with whom the trust does business of any kind."
A nephew of Michailidis, Dimitri Papadimitriou, said he discussed the loan with his uncle and Peppas, whom he described as a lawyer for Michailidis.
Papadimitriou, president of Liquimar Tanker Management, a Greek oil tanker company owned by his family, said his uncle told him about the transaction in 1995 while the two were on vacation.
He said he understood from his conversations with Michailidis and Peppas that the source of the loan "wasn't supposed to be known" and for that reason the money was provided through a corporation.
Reached in Greece, Peppas' son and legal partner declined to comment.
Asked if he played a role in the loan to True, Symes said in a recent interview: "That's rubbish." He suggested, however, that it was possible Michailidis offered it on his own.
In 1999, Michailidis died after falling down some stairs in an Italian villa.
A year later, Italian authorities notified the Getty that True was under investigation for allegedly conspiring to buy looted art.