BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 20 March 2008, 11:50 GMT
Seven charged in 'eBay art scam'
Forged Joan Miro artwork, photo courtesy of Catalan police
One of the fake Miro artworks (photo: Catalan police)
Seven people have been charged in connection with a multi-million dollar international art forgery operation.

Four Americans, two Spaniards and an Italian are accused of producing and selling thousands of counterfeit prints around the world.

The fakes of artworks by artists such as Picasso, Chagall, Miro and Dali sold for up to $50,000 (25,000) each.

Hundreds of people around the world bought the fake prints, many through the internet auction site eBay.

Police in the United States and Spain say the artworks were produced in Europe.

Most were copies of original limited-edition prints.

To give you a sense of the volume of materials sold, it is alleged... that the defendants issued... 600 counterfeit Chagall prints
US attorney Patrick Fitzgerald

Those accused include Spaniard Oswaldo Aulesti-Bach and Italians Elio Bonfiglioli and Patrizia Soliani.

American James Kennedy is accused of faking the signatures, and Chicago art dealer Michael Zabrin is charged with selling the prints, and with providing fake certificates of authenticity.

Two other American art dealers have also been charged.

Huge profits

"To give you a sense of the volume of materials sold, it is alleged in the indictment that the defendants issued 2,500 counterfeit (Alexander) Calder prints and 600 counterfeit Chagall prints," said US attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who announced the charges in Chicago.

Forged Salvador Dali artwork, photo courtesy of Catalan police
A fake Salvador Dali artwork (photo: Catalan police)

The quantity was such, he said, that the accused dealers were warned not to try to sell too many at once, as it could have flooded the market.

According to prosecutors, the prints were sold in galleries, at art shows, and through eBay, between July 1999 and October 2007.

They were bought by people in the United States, Canada, Australia, Europe and Japan, allegedly producing profits of more than $5m for the accused.

If convicted, those charged face up to 20 years in prison.

Van Gogh work 'by another artist'
03 Aug 07 |  Entertainment
Forgeries 'used to fund terror'
22 Nov 06 |  London
Protecting the world's art treasures
30 Sep 05 |  Entertainment
US gallery owner admits art fraud
14 Dec 04 |  Entertainment
Dali centenary show full of fakes
24 Aug 04 |  Entertainment

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific