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The latest headlines show international art fraud is still a huge concern for collectors and dealers

Art fraud is a crime many often consider to be from a bygone age and arguably, unless you’re directly involved, it’s probably a crime that can easily pass the majority of us by. 

However, for those who are involved, finding you have been a victim of art fraud or indeed any scam investment can be hugely distressing – both personally and financially – and given 3 major cases of art fraud have broken in the news during the few weeks, all collectors need to remain extra vigilant to ensure the next scam doesn't end up costing them millions.

On March 1st 201 the UK based investment houses Halifax Mann and Hey Design Services were wound up after it was found they had been defrauding their clients with an art investment scheme for almost 2 years. 

Investigators from the UK’s Insolvency Service found that between October 2017 and October 2018 the firms had received more than £1.4m from clients who believed they were investing in works by internationally renowned painters.  The Insolvency Service's investigation determined the scheme had been managed by Asset Consulting Services, a totally separate company based in Spain that had already been scrutinised by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Following the completion of the winding up order in the High Court in Manchester David Hope, chief investigator for the Insolvency Service told the media:

"Despite accepting more than £1m from members of the public, including elderly and vulnerable people, there is no evidence to indicate that the investment had any value or was likely to generate any return for the investors."

Meanwhile in London and only hours before being tried for selling a fake Frans Hal painting was due to start, UK art dealer Mark Weiss reached an “amicable” settlement with auction house Sotheby’s who had sold the painting ‘Portrait of a Gentleman’ for him in 2011. Mr Weiss has reportedly agreed to pay Sotheby's $4.2m (£3.2m) as long as he didn't have to admit liability.

Suspicions were aroused when it came to light that Weiss, in partnership with Fairlight Arts Venture, had bought the painting for $3.4m from Guiliano Ruffini, a French art dealer who has subsequently been accused of selling numerous fake Old Masters. 

In 2016 Sotheby’s, believing the painting was likely a fake, repaid the buyer, Richard Hedreen, the $11.2m he'd paid and since then they have been working to recover their loss from Weiss and Fairlight.

While the situation with Weiss has been resolved, Fairlight have thus far refused to pay anything arguing they were never party to the deal the auctioneers struck with Mr Hedreen and because, according to their lawyer Nigel Rowley, "nobody has proven that the piece is either genuine or a fake." 

As a result Sotheby’s and Fairlight Art Ventures will still go to trial.

And in France local law enforcement are investigating a Belgian national, a woman and 2 other men who attempted to sell a fake self-portrait of Van Gogh.

Their prospective buyer alerted the authorities was when he was told the price of the drawing would be “several million euros" and experts from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris have now confirmed the drawing was a forgery before a number of other suspected fakes were found in the Belgian man’s house.

Although all of these frauds are all slightly different, they have one thing in common.  They show just how easy it is for even the most experienced collectors and dealers to be fooled into parting with substantial sums of money for all too convincing counterfeits.  And, if it is that easy to con the experts, it will be even easier to dupe an enthusiastic amateur. 

If you have ever experienced art litigation you will already know just how complex and highly specialist this area of law is.  But if this is the first time you have found yourself facing a dispute that’s arisen because a piece of art you have bought has turned out not to be what you expected because the artists, previous ownership, authenticity or provenance can't be proven, you’ll need advice from an experienced art solicitor.

If you feel you have been the victim of any type of fraud involving fine art or any other high value collectable, please call us today on 020 7792 5649 or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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