German police break up international art ring

Associated Press

BERLIN (AP) — German police said Thursday they have broken up a multi-million-euro (-dollar) international forgery ring which specialized in producing bogus works attributed to Russian avant-garde artists including Vasily Kandinsky.

Two suspects were arrested at their homes in the western German city of Wiesbaden as alleged leaders of a group of six forgery artists, while searches of businesses, homes and art galleries were carried out Wednesday and Thursday in at least six German cities as well as Israel and Switzerland, federal police said in a statement.

Since 2005 the ring is believed to have produced and sold more than 400 faked paintings as "previously unknown works" attributed to artists such as Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich, Natalia Goncharova and Mikhail Larionov for "four- to seven-figure euro sums" each, they added. The two people now taken into custody are accused of selling forged artworks to customers in Germany and Spain for a total of more than 2 million euros ($2.7 million) over the past two years.

Police said that the suspects were Russian, Israeli, German and Tunisian but gave no other details. They didn't release the names of the two people arrested, who were aged 67 and 41.

The German police investigation of suspected fraud was launched last December, partly because of tips from Israel.

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