A man suspected of being an accessory to one of the world’s biggest art frauds will be extradited to the US. This week Spain’s highest criminal court agreed to the request for Jesus Angel Bergantinos Diaz, a chief suspect in the sale of fake masterpieces by Abstract Expressionist artists such as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and Robert Motherwell. The works were sold through New York’s Knoedler Gallery. Diaz’s boss the Mexican-American art dealer Glafira Rosales has already pleaded guilty before a US federal judge, to selling counterfeit paintings, to two of New York’s top galleries. She has yet to be sentenced.
US investigators have stated Mr Diaz and his brother Jose Carlos Bergantinos, 67, the lover of Ms Rosales are thought to be a leading figures in the scam which sold the fake works, over two decades, worth $33 million (29.6 million euros). They then laundered the money and hid it overseas. Diaz was arrested in April 2014 in the northwestern Spanish city of Lugo, while his brother Jose Carlos was detained that same month at a luxury hotel in the southern city of Seville. Both have refused voluntary extradition and were ordered to surrender their passports and remain in Spain pending extradition hearings.
Jose Carlos bought old paintings at flea markets which he passed on to Pei-Shen Qian, a Chinese painter, whom he met on the NY streets, selling his own work. He executed the fakes which were sold for millions by the Knoedler Gallery, under the directorship of Ann Freedman. The trial revealed that the Knoedler Gallery would have lost an average of $2m per year if it wasn’t for the fakes which pushed the company into profit of up to $17m per year. The gallery has since closed after 160 years. Qian fled to China where he is beyond extradition. Ann Freedman has yet to face any criminal charges.