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Monday, February 15, 1999 Published at 16:35 GMT


Art fraudster jailed

The man found guilty of masterminding one of the biggest art frauds this century has been jailed for six years.

BBC Crime Correspondent Stephen Cape: "The judge said that Drewe has a skill in manipulation"
John Drewe, 50, claimed his fake paintings were newly rediscovered works and amassed up to £1.8m by selling them.

He was convicted of conspiracy to defraud, two counts of forgery, one of theft and one of using a false instrument with intent at Southwark Crown Court last week.

John Myatt, the artist who created forgeries of paintings for him, was jailed for 12 months.

Drewe used deception to gain access to valuable art archives - including those at the Tate Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum. He then created bogus backgrounds about works he had commissioned.

'Mad genius'

His fake paintings were attributed to world famous artists like Ben Nicholson, Alberto Giacometti, Graham Sutherland and Nicholas de Stael. Some works were aged with vacuum cleaner dust and mud and one dealer he tricked called him a "mad genius".

[ image: Drewe made a £20,000 donation to the Tate]
Drewe made a £20,000 donation to the Tate
Drewe even donated £20,000 to the Tate, leading officials to trust him as a "serious researcher".

The trial lasted almost six months. Judge Geoffrey Rivlin, QC, had described the case as "extraordinary".

In sentencing he said Drewe had been the "chief architect, organiser and driving force behind a massive fraud".

He said Drewe demonstrated he was a "highly imaginative master forger of documents". He left "little to chance".


Earlier, Drewe insisted he was innocent, saying that "a cesspit of festering corruption" in the art market had made him a "scapegoat" to conceal international arms deals known to the government.

But Myatt, Drewe's forger, was described by his defence counsel as "deeply ashamed" of what he had done.

Stuart Denny, for Myatt, said his client had been manipulated at a time when he was vulnerable and short of money.

The court was told that Drewe recruited Myatt after replying to an advertisement placed in the satirical magazine Private Eye by the artist offering "genuine" 19th and 20th Century fakes.

The two men gradually fell out and at one point Drewe is said to have threatened Myatt with a gun.

The master fraudster's scheme came to an end after his former girlfriend, Batsheva Goudsmid, told police about a various incriminating documents she had found in the property the couple had shared.

Police recovered 60 of the forgeries but say about 140 still remain undetected.

The Tate and the Victoria and Albert have since reviewed their security arrangements in an art scandal that has also shamed auction houses Sotheby's and Christie's.

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