The activity of a criminal organization active in the preparation and sale abroad of fake paintings was identified

Greek police headquarters

Athens, November 3, 2023


The activity of a criminal organization active in the preparation and sale abroad of fake paintings was identified

Previous investigations related to the case of trafficking a painting, which would be sold for 12 million euros

-5- members of the organization were identified for the case

Seized, among other things, -18- paintings, -2- ovens for aging works of art and a number of seals and documents

The illegal financial benefit exceeds -6,000,000- euros

The Organized Crime Department of the General Regional Police Directorate of Crete identified the activity of a criminal organization that was active in the preparation and sale to private individuals, collectors, traders and auction houses in foreign countries of fake works of art and specifically paintings, allegedly created by famous artists .

For the case, -5- people were identified, against whom a case file was filed for founding and participating in a criminal organization, forgery, fraud, money laundering and violation of the Intellectual Property Law.

It was preceded by an investigation, in the context of which in February 2023 in Sofia, Bulgaria, in close cooperation with representatives of Europol and the Department of Cultural Heritage Protection of the Bulgarian Authorities, the purchase and sale of a painting, which was to be sold for 12,000,000 euros, was stopped.

Searches followed in houses and a warehouse in Attica, where 10 paintings, seals, documents, certificates of authenticity and a metal oven for aging works of art were found and confiscated.

An expert opinion was ordered for the paintings found in Attica and it emerged that they were entirely forged, in imitation of the artistic idiom of the painters to whom they are attributed, while the signatures they bore were also forged, similarly in imitation of the signatures of the painters who allegedly they created.

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From the further investigation it emerged that the members of the organization had set up and joined it, at least since 2014, with a professional structure, distinct roles and continuous action, with the aim of obtaining a large illegal financial benefit, through the preparation and distribution of tables, which they were presented as authentic with forged certificates of authenticity.

Regarding the mode of action (modus operandi) they used a specific methodology, namely:

the necessary materials were procured (old-style paper, machines for aging the works, stamps) for the creation of fake paintings,
to certify the authenticity of the works, they forged the signature of the respective creator, printed fake handwritten dedications while using fake transfer seals and false titles allegedly signed by prominent art historians of the time,
they contacted auction houses abroad, misleading them about the authenticity of the paintings by claiming that they came from collectors of the previous century or from political figures,
through an international network they had developed to promote their works, they posted the paintings in online auctions and catalogues,
they packed the works in wooden boxes and sent them abroad through a transport company (air transport) to complete the sale.

To achieve the purpose of their illegal activity, they had developed distinct roles, namely:

35-year-old, as the leader of the criminal organization, had taken over the coordination of the other members, contacted auction houses, negotiated the sales and managed the money they received,
61 years old, having painting skills and special knowledge about the nature and technique of painters, he prepared the fake paintings,
69-year-old, taking advantage of her foreign origin, provided information on the organization of the false route of the works, from the original creators to the members of the organization, while presenting herself as an art collector to prospective buyers,
56 years old, had undertaken the packaging of the paintings and their delivery to the transport companies, the collection of the money from the purchases and sales, the receipt of the forged documents and stamps, while performing the duties of the organization’s driver and
48-year-old, owner of a stamp making shop, supplied the organization with the fake stamps.

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In total, from the searches that have been carried out from February until November 1, 2023, the following were found and seized:

-18- paintings (-10- of which the forgeries after expert opinion),
number of seals of various agencies,
a number of documents (powers of attorney, handwritten letters, certificates, responsible declarations)
-2- laptop,
-2- metal ovens used for aging works of art and
paint tubes, brushes and spatulas.

It is typical that the three main members of the organization (35-year-old, 61-year-old and 69-year-old), in a related financial audit carried out by the S.D.O.E. turned out to hold significant sums of money in bank accounts, although they show no professional and business activity.

The illegal financial benefit obtained by the criminal organization is estimated at more than -6,000,000- euros.

The seized paintings will be examined for their authenticity, while the Organization of Intellectual Property (O.P.I.), the Organization for the Collective Management of Visual Works and Applications (O.S.D.E.T.E.) have been informed .) and the Ministry of Culture.

The file was submitted to the competent prosecuting authority and the case was referred to an investigator.

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