A German art collector and socialite has been jailed for three and a half years at Southwark Crown Court after pleading guilty to art fraud, involving the fake sale of a yellow pumpkin sculpture by Japanese contemporary artist, Yayoi Kusama, valued at $1.3 million.
Acting as an agent for a Hong Kong art dealer, Angela Gulbenkian took funds but never delivered the sculpture. She also admitted to a second charge of theft, having convinced her massage therapist to invest £50,000 with her as an art curator who could buy and sell art for her clients’ savings to grow.
She was extradited from Portugal to face charges in the UK and had been remanded in custody pending the outcome of the criminal proceedings. Confiscation proceedings will now follow.
The case is a fascinating insight into the art dealing world and how someone was able to use their connections and status as a smokescreen for fraudulent activities.
My colleague Annette Fong recently published an article, "The US is looking at lifting the veil on art sales - as it considered ripe for money laundering", and how the art market has become a regulated sector across Europe and the UK for AML purposes with the implementation of the 5MLD.
"Crimes committed within the art sphere are concerning and will be investigated vigorously and prosecuted just like any other offence, where there is the evidence to do so"