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Police bust art forgery ring in Spain selling fake Banksy works

Police bust art forgery ring in Spain selling fake Banksy works
A person holds a camera to his face in front of a print of the artwork 'Falling Shopper' by Banksy during a press tour a the exhibition 'BANKSY - A Vandal Turned Idol' in Berlin, Germany, 30 November 2023. The unauthorized exhibition, showing original artwork and prints of British street art artist Banksy, is presented from 01 December 2023 at an unihabited property in Berlin. EPA-EFE/CLEMENS BILAN

MADRID, March 8 (Reuters) - Police in Spain have dismantled an art forgery ring suspected of selling artworks falsely attributed to British street artist Banksy, with some pieces fetching prices of 1,500 euros ($1,640) or higher.

The Catalonia regional police force Mossos d’Esquadra said on Thursday it had raided a workshop inside an apartment in the city of Zaragoza, where the forgers created the fake works before distributing them through auction rooms, antique shops or online platforms.

Investigators have seized nine works and recorded at least 25 sales to victims in Spain, Germany, Switzerland, the United States and Scotland, the Mossos added in a statement. Four people are under investigation, charged with fraud and crimes against intellectual property

According to the police, “a couple of young followers of Banksy’s street art with economic problems” created Banksy-style works with stencils and ink stamps from the Zaragoza workshop, which they at first sold at prices no higher than 80 euros.

But a distributor “with knowledge of the functioning of the graphic work market”, in collaboration with an “interested distribution entity”, made fake certificates attributing the works to the secretive Banksy, whose identity has never been revealed.

The artworks were presented as being part of Banksy’s “Dismaland” project, a 2015 theme park-style installation in the British town of Weston-super-Mare.

But the company Pest Control, the only body that certifies Banksy’s oeuvre, found that both the artworks and certificates were false.

“The investigation remains open and further victims and new arrests are not ruled out,” the Mossos added.

(Reporting by David Latona; Editing by Alison Williams)

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