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Art fraud a serious crime: Vic court

AAP logoAAP 29/07/2016 By Jacqueline Le

Two men who used their knowledge of Brett Whiteley to create and sell fake paintings to "gullible" buyers should not get off lightly, Victorian prosecutors say.

Melbourne art dealer Peter Stanley Gant and art conservator Mohamed Amen Siddique were found guilty in May of selling two fake Brett Whiteley paintings for more than $3 million and trying to sell a third artwork.

Even if the fraud is seen to only affect people "silly enough to spend that much money on art", the men should be punished appropriately, Crown prosecutor Susan Borg told the Victorian Supreme Court.

"Each accused used their vast knowledge of art, the art world, and Brett Whiteley in order to defraud nine gullible art dealers," she said on Friday.

"Given their positions, they were able to camouflage their conduct."

Gant and Siddique were found guilty of obtaining financial advantage by deception and attempting to obtain financial advantage by deception after a four-week trial before a jury.

Siddique, 68, created three fake Whiteley paintings in his Collingwood studio between 2007 and 2009.

In late 2007, then Sydney Swans chairman Andrew Pridham bought Big Blue Lavender Bay for $2.5 million.

Orange Lavender Bay later sold for $1.1 million, while a third fake painting, Through the Window, had a sale prices of $950,000.

Gant facilitated the sales, but Ms Borg said Siddique knew the fake paintings were being sold for a lot of money.

"They picked the most prestigious and well known Australian artist," she said.

"They have gone into this joint criminal enterprise to sell fake Brett Whiteley paintings."

Siddique's use of large doors to mimic Whiteley's artistic process and the forged provenance documents provided by Gant reflect the level of planning involved, the crown says.

"Art fraud is difficult to uncover and even more difficult to prosecute," Ms Borg said.

"It's a very sophisticated white collar crime."

The men will be sentenced at a later date.

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