Sunday, April 29, 2007

Elderly Scam Artists

This is an "Everything" post. I've been coming across lots of articles recently that discuss fraud in the antiquities market - New York, for instance, is a big market for both illegally excavated (or otherwise illegally acquired) antiquities and outright fraudulent "antiquities." We've been posting links to recent articles and even a website devoted to the subject at Goddesschess' Random Roundup. This one, though, takes the cake! Elderly pair face art scam charges Martin Wainwright Friday April 27, 2007 The Guardian A couple in their 80s and their sons were charged yesterday with conning a council into buying a fake ancient Egyptian statue that was supposed to put the Louvre's similiar piece of art in the shade. Embarrassed town hall staff in Bolton were allegedly hoodwinked by George Greenhalgh, 83, and his wife Olive, 82, into paying nearly £440,000 for the 50cm (20in) image of the Amarna princess, said to represent Tutankhamun's sister. The statue was later found by experts to be many centuries short of its supposed age of 3,367 years. The couple appeared before Greater Manchester magistrates yesterday with their sons, George Junior, 52, and Shaun, 46, who are jointly accused of using their home in Bolton as a base for selling bogus antiques. The parents and Shaun are accused of conspiring to defraud the arts and antique world by selling fake and forged work as genuine between 1989 and 2006. They are also charged with knowingly handling fake art and antiques and the money made from selling such items. Mr Greenhalgh and his sons are charged with involvement in handling the cash transfer from Bolton council for the statue, whose purchase the council said at the time was a "bargain". It was really worth £1m, the council said in 2003. The statue represented a daughter of the Pharaoh Akhenaten and Queen Nefertiti. The council paid for it by securing a grant of £360,000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, as well as £75,000 from the National Art Collections Fund, and £2,500 from the Friends of Bolton Museum and Art Gallery. The allegedly bargain price had been attributed to the wish of the Bolton seller that the Amarna statue should stay in his native town. The relic occupied pride of place at Bolton Museum until a Metropolitan police inquiry in March last year. The inquiry followed suspicions raised by the appearance of a supposedly ancient Syrian sculpture sent to the British Museum some months earlier. No pleas were entered. A further hearing will take place at the end of July. The four defendants were given unconditional bail.

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