Formed with the stated goal of stamping out fake autographs, AFTAL, the Autograph Fair Trade Alliance, attracted many of UK's and Europe's most reputable dealers as members. But while the vast majority of AFTAL dealers lived its stated goal, including a recognized expert used by law enforcement to testify against the forgery industry, AFTAL's two primary founders, Dominic Manning and Marc Mclennan, used it as cover to sell and authenticate thousands of forgeries. Manning has seized control of the organization after an AFTAL steering committee found that he sold hundreds of fake Michael Jackson autographs he claimed to have gotten in person. And like a mansion built on quicksand, AFTAL is crumbling.
As the legally listed head of AFTAL, Manning, owner of Behind the Scenes Autographs, disbanded the steering committee last week that was formed in December by boardmember Garry King after Manning and another boardmember were forced to resign. Manning then reportedly had AFTAL's lawyer slap a suppression order (gag order) on the former members of the committee, forbidding them to talk publicly about Manning's actions or their determination that the Michael Jacksons Manning sold were forgeries.
In the UK, even revealing that you are under a suppression order can have you held in contempt of court, so little information about it has come out and no public documents appear to be available. But the sudden silence of former steering members who used to speak to me confirms its existence in my mind.
Events have taken a violent turn. Several autograph dealers have reportedly been threatened by Manning or the source of the forgeries, Adrian Longden, and police reports have been filed. At least one victim is in fear of his life.
Roughly a third of AFTAL members have resigned or are in the process of doing so, and many more are anticipated to resign as they hear about the scandal.
Stay tuned for more. Autograph Magazine is preparing a list of current and former AFTAL dealers considered reputable. Please message me if you would like to be considered for this list.
For more details on AFTAL's actions and the Dominic Manning/Adrian Longden forgeries, read the following Autograph Magazine Live! discussions: