Two brothers from Girona, Spain have been arrested by Spanish Police after attempting to sell a fake Francisco de Goya painting to a purported sheik. However, the shrewd sheik was no dumb, he paid the two con artists with photocopied money.
Unfortunately, the con artists had already taken the bait. They tried to deposit 1.7 million Swiss francs (€1.5 million) in a Geneva bank and were told that the banknotes were mere photocopies.
The scam was unraveled by Spanish police authorities in December 2014, after the Avignon customs warned them that they had intercepted two Spanish brothers trying to smuggle 1.7 million fake Swiss francs.
The sheik had ostensibly agreed to pay a total of €4 million for the Goya painting. The initial payment was to be collected in Turin, and was delivered by a middleman from the prince’s entourage.
It turns out that the brothers verified the cash was legit with a machine. However, the middleman managed to switch it before they left for Switzerland.
To make matters worse, the brothers had also given a €300,000 premium to the middleman who had introduced them to the sheik. To raise the money, they asked a friend to lend them the money, promising to give it back the following day, with an extra €80,000.
The plan backfired and the sheik and the middleman, carrying the €300,000, have gone underground and their whereabouts are currently unknown. In the meantime, the fake Goya painting is currently being held by police.
The jumbled art fiddle ensued back in 2003, when the brothers first agreed to buy the Goya painting for €270,000, convinced it was the real deal.
Due to the painting’s lack of a certificate of authenticity, the two only paid a deposit of €20,000. Back in 2006, a Goya expert hired by the Girona Provincial Court deemed that the painting was a fake. The expert revealed that it had been done by a Goya contemporary rather than the Spanish master himself.
This was after he cited a key element to establish its fake provenance. The element was that the forger had forgotten to paint a specific medal of honor on the subject’s chest, clearly visible in the original.
As a result, the Provincial Court let the brothers keep the fake and relieved them of having to pay the standing amount, €250,000. The two decided to payback by looking for somebody to sell to just as they had been conned themselves. However, they ended up being swindled by the sheik.