New claim made about African artwork stashed in Harris County maintenance shed

HOUSTON – A lawyer claimed Friday that her client was paid for some of the African artwork stashed in a Harris County maintenance shed with bad checks.

“I filed a claim because my client wants the return of his art piece or he wants to be paid for it,” said Paula Robnett who sent the claim to the Office of Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan. “Why would you have such precious pieces of art in a shed like that?”

Robnett says her client, Ali Syll, sold some of the allegedly precious artwork, to Sam Najunuri, the man who owned African Art Global. However, Robnett says Najunri’s checks to Syll bounced.

ORIGINAL INVESTIGATION: ‘Priceless’ African art without paperwork stored in Harris County-owned maintenance shed

Najunuri is the man who Harris County Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis made an agreement with in 2018 to display 14 pieces of artwork across the county.

So far, Ellis has chosen to not answer KPRC 2′s questions about the ownership of the artwork or how it ended up in the maintenance shed.

Robnett claims her client has been inside the shed.

“He’s been in the maintenance shed. In what capacity? He brought other pieces of art to the shed,” she said.

PART 2: New agreement proposed by Ellis prompts more questions into ownership of African art stored in Harris County shed

Robnett and fellow attorney Joe Walker have now sent letters to the County Attorney’s Office asking that the art not be touched. Walker is attempting to collect a judgment of nearly $280,000 against Najunuri for his client in an unrelated case.

Robnett wants her client get his pieces back.

“Some parts of the art appear to be very, very valuable and very old,” she said.

KPRC 2 first reported on the massive stash of African art stored in the shed more than a week ago. The County Attorney’s office remains unclear as to who is the true owner of the nearly 1,000 pieces of art inside the facility.

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