In recent art world news this week, Spain’s National Court has ruled that Jesus Angel Bergantinos Diaz, alleged partner of Glafira Rosales in her sale of a number of counterfeit paintings through the former Knoedler Gallery (“Knoedler”), can be extradited from Spain to the United States. This means that various charges, including wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and money laundering, can be brought against Diaz in New York for assisting former art dealer Rosales in selling dozens of fake paintings through Knoedler over a 15 year period.
As set forth in a related blog post below, Rosales allegedly had a reputation for selling paintings by famous Abstract Expressionist artists, including Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, and Jackson Pollock, but in fact the paintings were actually forgeries made in Queens, New York, by Pei-Shen Qian, who has since fled to China amidst various charges of conspiracy, fraud and making false statements.
According to a grand jury indictment filed in March 2014, Diaz, his brother Jose (an alleged co-conspirator who had asked to be tried in Spain, as reported by the AP), and Rosales had taken in more than $33 million from the scheme. The Diaz brothers were arrested in Seville, Spain in April 2014.
Since the closing of its operations in 2011, Knoedler has entered into settlements with a number of art collectors who had purchased fake paintings from the former gallery. Last week, Domenico and Eleanore De Sole, the first art collectors who went to trial over the purchase of a fake Mark Rothko from Knoedler for $8.3 million in 2004, settled with both the gallery (including its parent company, 8-31 Holdings), and its former director, Ann Freedman, for an undisclosed amount after nearly three weeks of damaging testimony that focused on the fake painting.
As observed in our recent blog post below, the Knoedler litigation places a spot light on the issue of caveat emptor/buyer beware and when there can be reasonable reliance on a dealer’s purported expertise and his or her representations regarding the authentication of a work.