Tale of Yoko Ono's ex-chauffeur and John Lennon's belongings

Yoko Ono has identified the items, including diaries (above) and eyeglasses (left), as having been taken from her home.
Yoko Ono has identified the items, including diaries (above) and eyeglasses, as having been taken from her home.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
Yoko Ono has identified the items, including diaries (above) and eyeglasses (left), as having been taken from her home.
Yoko Ono has identified the items, including diaries and eyeglasses (above), as having been taken from her home.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
Yoko Ono has identified the items, including diaries (above) and eyeglasses (left), as having been taken from her home.
Yoko Ono (above) has identified the items, including diaries and eyeglasses, as having been taken from her home.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

Some personal items of the late Beatle, which turned up at a bankrupt auction house, have been traced to his wife's driver

NEW YORK • The chauffeur had claimed that Yoko Ono had sexually harassed him. Koral Karsan was later jailed for making threats against her.

That was 11 years ago.

That melodrama between the two, played out in New York City courtrooms and across newspaper headlines, appeared to end with that two-month span of accusations, denials and threats.

Karsan was sent back to his native Turkey after 60 days in jail and Ono returned to her public creative pursuits and the side of her life she has long kept private, within the walls of the apartment in the Dakota where she once lived with husband John Lennon. The Beatle was gunned down in 1980.

But the police in Berlin last week announced what amounted to an audacious coda to that 2006 chain of events. They said they had mounting evidence that Karsan, even as he was accusing Ono of sexual harassment and demanding US$2 million to stay quiet, was stealing Lennon's personal effects from her apartment in the Dakota.

Or was he? Karsan, 61, in a brief statement last Friday from his home in Turkey, said she gave him the Lennon items in 2006.

That claim suggests a likely return to the spotlight for the fraught relationship born years ago inside a hired limousine.

Many of the missing items were found this year in storage at a bankrupt German auction house, but others, including a sculpture of Lennon and "very personal documents" are still missing, the police said.

Karsan remains in Turkey and cannot be extradited to Germany. "We think he was the thief," said Mr Martin Steltner, a spokesman for the state prosecutor's office in Berlin.

Ono, 84, met German investigators last month in New York and was presented with a notebook that belonged to Lennon for her to identify. "It was very emotional for her," Mr Steltner added.

The story began 11 years ago with the public unravelling of the relationship between Ono and her driver of more than a decade, the man who shuttled the rock star's widow to and from her apartment by day and returned at night to his home on Long Island.

He had been a driver for a limousine service she used and she hired him to be her personal driver.

In December 2006, Karsan was arrested and accused of threatening to release private audiotapes and photographs if Ono did not give him US$2 million. He made the threats in a letter and a conversation with her lawyer, also threatening to kill her and her son, the police said.

Karsan's letter, in which he accused Ono of ruining his marriage and self-esteem, was later released.

"As you know, I have loyally served you in many capacities as your driver, bodyguard, assistant, butler, nurse, handyman and more so your lover and confidant over the last 10 years," the letter stated.

Her spokesman at the time denied those claims.

Prosecutors dropped the extortion charges in February 2007 and allowed Karsan to plead guilty to a lesser charge of attempted grand larceny. He was ordered to leave the United States for Turkey.

A decade passed. Then, in July, a lawyer in Berlin made a startling discovery. Auctionata, a Berlin auction house, had gone bankrupt and a lawyer going through the items in storage found Lennon's property.

The police said the items, 86 in all, including eyeglasses and diaries, had been sold to the auction house in 2014 by a man identified as Erhan G. The police sent photographs of the items to Ono's lawyer in New York and she identified them as having been taken from her home.

"We heard from Yoko Ono that the items were in different cupboards in her flat," Mr Steltner said.

"Not in a safe, not in a special place. She thought earlier that some items were missing, but she couldn't say," he added. She had never reported the items stolen.

On Oct 30, German investigators arrived in New York. The next day, they met Ono in the German consulate. They handed her a notebook from 1952 and photographs of other items in Berlin. She said they belonged to Lennon.

The police arrested Erhan G. last week. On Thursday, he admitted to having sold the items to the auction house. He said he had got them from Karsan, Mr Steltner said.

The police found photographs of more of Lennon's belongings in Erhan G.'s computer - he told them they were hidden somewhere.

"We are missing some walking sticks and a special, small sculpture", along with the private papers, "very personal documents and letters we don't want to publish", Mr Steltner added.

Karsan, reached for comment by e-mail last Friday, said he took the items out of the apartment at the instruction of Ono, along with other valuables, as a powerful storm approached the city in 2006.

She feared the home could be damaged. He included an e-mail he said was from Ono, asking him to perform several tasks before the storm.

The e-mail does not mention Lennon's possessions, but paintings and file cabinets.

Karsan said he locked the items away in Long Island. He did not return them, but added that Ono knew where they were. He added that after his conviction, he returned to Turkey.

He was not allowed to contact her after his conviction, so he kept the items and eventually had them sold to the auction house, he said. "At least I can get my compensation," he wrote.

A spokesman for Ono did not reply to e-mails seeking comment.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 27, 2017, with the headline 'Tale of Yoko Ono's ex-chauffeur and John Lennon's belongings'. Print Edition | Subscribe