The Paris art market was rocked by a major scandal following the arrest on January 25th 2002 of a well known expert, a dealer and their accomplice who tricked several collectors in selling them paintings given as by great masters.
Police arrested a dealer established near the Drouot salesrooms a reputed expert and a man named Jean-Marc Aouizerat, who used several aliases and lured several collectors in two plush apartments where they were shown paintings said to be of high quality, in fact works by pupils or followers of great masters.
The three men responsible for the fraud, which amounted to several million dollars, were freed on bail after being detained for 48 hours.
They had been the object of a one-year investigation, which led to the discovery of bank transfers to Luxembourg and other countries meaning that usual taxes were not paid on most deals.
Police said they were accused of selling fakes to collectors who after seeing the paintings in the flats rented by Jean-Marc Aouizerat were put in contact with the expert who willingly delivered authentication certificates for the works sold.
The accused often boasted on their telephones, which were taped by police, of the enormous profits they were making. They notably tricked Patrick Guérand, a shareholder of the luxury goods company Hermès who bought for $ 2,3 million dollars a painting said to be by Guido Reni, which in fact had nothing to do with the style of that Bolognese painter of the 17th Century, as well as the wife of an important lawyer who acquired a faked Carracci for the same amount of money.
Among the other people who fell victims of the fraud was Parisian antique dealer Maurice Ségoura who bought for $ 500 000 a painting given as by Marinus Van Remerswaele, a mannerist Flemish painter of the 16th Century that the Paris dealer interrogated by police had previously acquired in Vienna for about $ 32,000.
Ségoura, who as a dealer should have known whether this painting was genuine or not, said he would not lodge a complaint against the three men and added that those collectors who were tricked should have rather relied on professionals to acquire real masterpieces.
“They were attracted by the prospect of making good deals and took therefore no precautions whereas there are so many galleries in Paris which offer strong guarantees regarding old master paintings”, he pointed out.
The scandal rocked the small world of Parisian dealers who as a result were the targets of a series of annoying controls by tax inspectors.