Archive for “stolen goods”

Traffic of counterfeit artwork comes to a standstill in Bordeaux

Bordeaux, 5 December 2013, Art Media Agency (AMA).

Eight people in Bordeaux have been accused of a legacy of trafficking counterfeit contemporary art pieces. An entire family is involved in this affair of fakes, which includes knock-offs of works by, amongst others, Alexandre Noll, Charlotte Perriand and even Jean Prouvé.

An enquiry was set up in 2008 following a confession from one of the accomplices in the trafficking, who gave the name of Géraldine Duran-Blondel, a Bordeaux lawyer. The investigations which followed traced the network of counterfeiters right up to its mastermind, Christian Duran. When Mr Duran died in 2006, it seemed that members of his family had carried on the tradition, as the 89 counterfeit objects discovered five years ago would attest to.

Eight people appeared before the judge in the Bordeaux courts in mid-October, including Christian’s widow, his daughter and son, as well as other presumed accomplices. The charges against them are conspiracy to commit fraud, forgery, and the handling of stolen goods as part of an organised group. According to the newspaper Sud-Ouest, “The judges have abandoned the aggravating circumstances of organised crime and conspiracy, and are partially acquitting the defendants and reviewing the facts in this case which has all elements of a family saga surrounding the death of the patriarch.”

Duran’s widow has received a suspended sentence of one year in prison for the handling and concealment of stolen goods. The daughter, Géraldine, a Bordeaux lawyer, has received a suspended sentence of 15 months in prison and a fine of €50,000 for aiding and abetting fraud, forgery and the handling and and concealment of stolen goods. The son, Samuel, has been found guilty of fraud, forgery and the handling and concealment of stolen goods, and has been sentenced to 30 months in prison, six with no remission. A Ukrainian worker, a Polish man and a dealer in second-hand goods who made copies of the artworks have also been sentenced for forgery.

Suspects in Le Guennec case charged

Grasse, 15 June 2011, Art Media Agency (AMA).

Pierre and Daniel Le Guennec were indicted on 3 May 2011 by Catherine Bonnici, the juge d’instruction (French magistrate responsible for conducting the investigative hearing that precedes a criminal trial) of Grasse. The couple, who affirms that Pablo Picasso gave them 271 works, is being investigated for the possession of stolen goods.

The scandal broke out in autumn of last year, when Picasso’s former electrician produced 271 works, stored in his garage for forty years. Le Guennec wished to sell the paintings to settle financial problems related to his estate and claimed that he had received the objects from the painter and his wife.

An AFP article quotes a source from the public prosecutor’s office in Grasse, who stated that “there are inconsistencies in their statements, and some elements appear improbable to us.” The artist’s heirs agree and say that the works were stolen. Picasso usually signed works he gave to acquaintances and the gifts were usually recent works, but the majority of artworks in the possession of the Le Guennec couple date from the 1910’s and 1920’s.

The financial stakes are immense, as the works have been valued at more than eighty million dollars. The interested parties are the Le Guennec family, the Picasso family and the French state.

Follow-up to affair concerning Israeli stolen objects

Salt Lake City, 24 May 2011, Art Media Agency (AMA).

Tour guide David Lund, who is accused of having sold stolen Israeli heritage objects, maintains his innocence.

Lund was first arrested in a hotel in Jerusalem for dealing in cultural goods. After searching his room, the Israeli authorities released him and put him under permanent surveillance in order to find out whether he detained other stolen objects. Some time later, he committed a second offence and the group of ninety-six tourists to whom he was selling stolen goods was stopped at the airport. The police discovered antique coins in their bags. David Lund was allowed to leave the country on condition that he returns to Israel for his trial. In Israel, this type of crime entails a three-year prison sentence.

David Lund spoke to the press and denied all accusations against him.  He says that Israeli customs have previously caught him carrying  antique pieces on arrival in Israel. Lund affirmed he brought them for one of his guided tours. Customs believed him and let him enter the country. Lund thus does not understand why the authorities are accusing him of smuggling items when they let him enter the country with exactly the same objects.

Furthermore, concerning the coins at the airport, Lund declares he legally bought them with his credit card specially for his clients.

For now, the affair is still pending.

Follow-up to the Drouot Affair

Paris, 6 May 2011, Art Media Agency (AMA)

The Drouot affair was supposed to be hushed up, but new accusations are sure to revive the scandal. For instance, it is said that auctioneer Claude Boisgirard has been indicted for concealment and criminal conspiracy in the “red collars” affair.

The French law defines concealment as dissimulation, illegal possession and as the fact of passing on goods or serving as an intermediary to pass them on, knowing the items are of criminal provenance. Concealment entails a five-year imprisonment as well as a €375, 000 fine.

If the accusations turn out to be true, Maître Boisgirard runs the risk of incurring these penalties, along with the other auctioneers whose names have not been revealed yet. The announcement is a new blow for the Parisian sale room, given the fact Claude Boisgirard is a key figure for Drouot. He is the manager of auction company Boisgirard et Associé and former major member of the Conseil des Ventes Volontaires as well as Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur.

He is not the only Drouot auctioneer being indicted, as two other auctioneers are also under investigation.

A hundred artworks by Picasso discovered

Paris, 29 November 2010. AMA.

A French electrician, Pierre Le Guennec, aged seventy-one, is said to own 271 artworks by Pablo Picasso. The retired man worked for Picasso for thirty years, before the death of the artist in 1973.

Nobody knew about the existence of these pieces dating from 1900 to 1932. These paintings, sketches, books and drawings are estimated at €60 million. Amongst the pieces are nine cubist collages valued at approximately €40 million, a blue watercolour, gouaches, lithographs, as well as portraits of Picasso’s first wife, Olga.

The electrician and his wife contacted the painter’s son, Claude Picasso, who administrates the estate, in order to obtain authenticity certificates.

According to Pierre Le Guennec these pieces were loaned by the painter to the couple, but Claude Picasso has questioned this statement, given the numbers of works. The heirs of the painter, as well as experts, decided to file a lawsuit against person unknown for possession of stolen goods on 23 September 2010. The artworks were seized on 5 October by the Office Central de Lutte contre le Trafic des Biens Culturels (OCBC) at the Le Guennec’s home in the Alpes Maritimes region, southern France.