Two Spanish con-men face attempted fraud charges after selling a forged painting that the buyer paid for with fake Swiss francs, according to a story published online Feb. 22, 2015, by The Independent newspaper in London.
In December 2014, the two men, who are brothers, arranged to sell a fake Goya painting, a portrait of Spanish artist Antonio Maria Esquivel, to an alleged Arab sheik for €4 million.
An unknown Italian middleman arranged the sale and charged the brothers €300,000 as a commission for brokering the deal.
The brothers travelled to Italy and gave the €300,000 to the Italian broker who gave them 1.7 million in fake Swiss francs as a down payment on the total price of €4 million.
When the brothers attempted to deposit the money in a bank in Geneva, Switzerland, the fake notes were uncovered. When the men then attempted to cross the border into France, customs officials noticed the fake money and contacted Spanish law enforcement.
The fake painting was confiscated.
Meanwhile the ‘Arab sheik’ and the Italian middleman who had brokered the deal vanished with the genuine €300,000.
In 2003 the brothers had bought the fake Goya painting, complete with an authenticity certificate, believing it to be genuine. In 2006 art experts declared it a 19th century fake and a Spanish court said the brothers could keep the painting for the €20,000 deposit they had already paid, rather than the €270,000 full price they had originally agreed.
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