Maradona's heirs lose court battle in Ballon d'Or auction case

BUENOS AIRES.- A French court ruled that the auction of a trophy given to the deceased Diego Maradona After the 1986 World Cup it can be held as planned, despite the refusal of his heirs, his lawyer told The Associated Press on Thursday.

Maradona's heirs tried to prevent the auction of the Ballon d'Or that the Argentine soccer player received for being the best player in the 1986 World Cup, initiating an emergency judicial procedure. Lawyer Gilles Moreu told AP that the court's ruling “was not favorable to Diego Maradona's heirs” and said he would file an appeal.

The trophy will be auctioned next Thursday in Paris by the Aguttes auction house, which had no immediate comment regarding the ruling.

The location of the Ballon d'Or was unknown for decades after it disappeared under uncertain circumstances and resurfaced recently. Maradona's heirs said the trophy had been stolen and claim the current owner has no right to sell it. The Aguttes house points out that the trophy appeared in 2016 among other objects acquired from a private collection at an auction in Paris.

Moreu said the president of the court in Nanterre, outside Paris, believed that the current owner of the trophy, identified as Mr. Benchaieb, “must be considered to be acting in good faith.”

Benchaieb and Aguttes claim that when he bought the trophy years ago he did not know it had been stolen.

“The Ballon d'Or is a unique property that Diego Maradona's children want to recover,†Moreu said. “My clients are very sad about the court's decision.†.

History of the Ballon d'Or:

Maradona received the award in 1986 at a ceremony held at the Lido cabaret on the Champs-Élysées. He subsequently disappeared, giving rise to rumors. Some say that he got lost during a poker game or that he sold himself to pay off debts. Others indicate that Maradona kept it in a safe deposit box in a bank in Naples that was robbed by local gangsters in 1989, when he played in the Italian league. Maradona's heirs believe he was robbed from the bank.

Bidders who wish to bid for the Ballon d'Or must deposit 161,000 dollars (150,000 euros) to participate in the auction.