The Calvert County prosecutor has been ordered to pay the estate of his uncle, the late millionaire Fred N. Maloof, a sum of money equal to the value of rare tapestries, jade and ivory that allegedly vanished from Maloof's Oxon Hill mansion after he died six years ago.
"The court is not satisfied," wrote Prince George's Orphans Court Judges James J. Lombardi and Mary T. O'Hare, "that Naji Maloof (the Calvert County state's attorney) has accounted properly for all the assets of the estate and concludes that he is responsible for the items which are clearly missing."
Maloof, the judges concluded, "has breached his trust. He may have done his best, but his best was not enough."
The precise value of the missing items has yet to be determined, but incomplete estimates have placed the total around $50,000.
"I'm glad they finally came out with something," Naji Maloof said yesterday. "I beg to differ with them . . . To the best of my knowledge, everything that came into my possession, wherever it went, to the extent I was able to keep up with it, was turned in."
It was Naji Maloof, according to court documents and testimony, who supervised the removal of his eccentric uncle's vast collections of art and historical treasures in the early morning hours of April 5, 1972, allegedly for safekeeping.
His uncle, Fred Maloof, was described in this week's 12-page court order as "a 79-year-old lifelong bachelor with an extraordinary fondness for
The night he died, the opinion noted, "There gathered at his 55-acre estate and 50-room mansion, Oxon Hill Manor, a cast of characters more appropriately found in an Agatha Christie mystery novel."
There was, the judges said, "the devoted Spanish servant with his wife and infant child; the resident Japanese artist; the chauffeur-caretaker, along with his three sons: the confidential secretary a physician; two off-duty deputy sheriffs, the sister-in-law" of Fred Maloof and her son, Naji.
The scene at the mansion was "bedlam," the judges said. As the old man's treasures were carted away in a rental truck and private automobiles, the court said, "no effort was made by Naji Maloof or his mother to inventory or photograph any of the items they ordered removed."
There is "no evidence," the court said, that Naji Maloof and his mother. Soosan Maloof, "did not act in good faith during this time . . . It is evident that Naji Maloof did this openly, and without any subterfuge. Under the circumstances, this court cannot say that what he did on the night of Fred Maloof's death was not in the best interest of the estate . . .
"But the fact that Naji Maloof may have acted in good faith does not mean that he is not liable for actions which were improper or marked by poor judgment," the court said. Maloof's request that his "second and final accounting" of the estate be approved. Such action requires that all assets be accounted for to the court's satisfaction.
The tangled affairs of the Maloof estate have filled several thick files at the Prince George's Courthouse since the death of the Lebanese-born, self-made millionaire. The files were further expanded by nearly 600 pages of testimony in recent months before the Orphans Court that testimony, which the judges characterized as often conflicting, concerned the alleged disappearance of "paintings, sculptures, tapestries, bronzes, busts and hundreds of other specific art objects."
But except for the two centuries-old tapestries and two jade-and-ivory-filled cabinets, the court said, "it is impossible to ascertain precisely what was in the mansion."
What happened to the Maloof collection was the subject of an inconclusive grand jury probe four years ago, during which Naji Maloof turned in items worth some $54,000. The Prince George's prosecutors office has been closely following the Orphans Court proceedings. "We are carefully reviewing the (judges') order," State Attorney Arthur A. Marshall, Jr. said yesterday.