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B.C. cops seize fine art worth ‘tens of millions of dollars’ from alleged fraudster

Click to play video: 'Saanich police seize millions of dollars worth of fine art' Saanich police seize millions of dollars worth of fine art
Police on Vancouver Island have seized tens of millions of dollars’ worth of art following an investigation into an art dealer. Saanich police have seized more than one thousand pieces of art -- including three original Emily Carr paintings and a David Blackwood watercolour.. Both are renowned Canadian artists – Apr 29, 2022

Police on Vancouver Island say they’ve foiled a fine art scam potentially involving artworks valued “in the tens of millions of dollars.”

Investigators with the Saanich Police Department seized more than 1,000 pieces of art earlier this month, as they followed up on complaints about a local art dealer.

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The apparent disappearance of four pieces of art, three by iconic British Columbia painter Emily Carr and one by Canadian painter David Blackwood, sparked the investigation.

Police said a local art owner contacted them, after entrusting the pieces to the art dealer for consignment and possible sale at an Oak Bay gallery in March.

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“The intention was for the art dealer to either consign them or look to sell them in the future,” Saanich police Const. Markus Anastasiades told CKNW’s Mike Smyth Show.

“However, the owner of the artwork noticed that the gallery had closed down a few weeks afterward and then trying to reach out and contact the art dealer at times were cold. There were unanswered calls, so they became very suspicious.”

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An investigation then turned up several other people who told police they had also consigned art to the dealer only to have communications drop off.

A police search of three storage sites in Saanich, Oak Bay and Langford turned up 600 pieces at one location, more than 100 at the second and more than 300 at the third.

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“I can assure you that the artwork is from Canadian artists who are very well known, have a high dollar value,” Anastasiades said.

“What we understand was happening was that the dealer was taking art from people with the intention of consigning or appraising the art, but then later ceasing all contact, all the while selling the art without reimbursing the owners or the artists.”

Anastasiades said police have been dealing with the logistical challenges of ensuring the valuable, fragile art is properly handled and transported to a secure location.

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The art dealer, who police have yet to identify, was arrested on April 21 and released pending a future court date.

Police say they are recommending charges of fraud and false pretense.

Investigators say they are now working to reunite the art pieces with their rightful owners.

Anyone who believes their artwork may be among the pieces seized in the case can contact Saanich Police at art@saanichpolice.ca.

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