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September 26, 2000


- Master Forger Geert Jan Jansen on trial in France
- Re: Theft of Fossils (Dan Chure)
- Queen's visit fuels royal jewels row
- Sotheby's Shares Jump on News of Price-Fixing Settlement

Master Forger Geert Jan Jansen on trial in France

HENK SCHUTTEN, Het Parool, Amsterdam
General director Rudy Fuchs of the Municipal Museum in Amsterdam helps master forger Geert Jan Jansen who is standing trial in Orleans, France, at the moment. In a written declaration Mr. Jansen's lawyer presented to the French judge Rudy Fuchs states that paintings confiscated 1994 by French police must not be destroyed.

Mr. Jansen's collection supposedly contains paintings by Ferdinand Erfman, Charles Eyck, Leo Gestel, Bart van der Leck, and several other renowned painters. In his letter Rudy Fuchs declares that these are 'famous Netherlands artists of artistic and historic value'. 'In my opinion no risk may be taken that the authentic works of these painters are destroyed". In a reaction to the press Rudy Fuchs hastens to declare that his letter must not be considered a proof of adhesion. "I will not stand in the breach for a forger. Among this gentleman's paintings confiscated by French authorities appear to be a number by famous Dutch artists, now threatened to be destroyed. That's why I was invited to make a statement about the artistic and cultural value of these paintings". Whether these paintings are original or fake does not matter according to Fuchs. "That is completely irrelevant. All I declare in my letter is that the mentioned painters are important artists. That's all". It is most disappointing for Mr. Jansen that the case against him was opened six years after (May 1994) he was arrested at his country estate La Chaux. At first the French investigation concerning the 'forger of the century' seemed to become complete failure. Notwithstanding several public calls by radio, television, and newspaper, and in spite of numerous wire messages to auction houses and art dealers, nobody reported a forged painting. After six years the French authorities decided to go and find fake Jansen paintings themselves. At Drouot's, the auction house where Jansen, using pseudonyms, did most of his dealing, the books were checked on all his transactions. The paintings police managed to trace were confiscated immediately. Buyers were threatened to be charged with complicity if they refused to press charges against Jansen. Mr. Jansen's attorney was most surprised to find 13 charges against his client February 2000. The past couple of months the investigation turned out to be a real soap, for one complaint after the other was dropped. Finally two charges remained from 'commissair priseurs' (auctioneers) who are imprisoned themselves at the moment. One of these auctioneers, a very renowned expert, had 'forgotten' to pay out 24 million French francs ($.7 million) after he had auctioned a collection painting that was part of an inheritance. One auctioneer insisted that a Beuys painting made by Jansen was an original Beuys. This auctioneer invited three experts who all were of the same opinion. Two buyers who filed claims cannot be found anymore. One buyer French authorities managed to trace has declared that he is not interested whether his painting is true or false. He loves the painting no matter its background. The only ground for French authorities to consider paintings sold by Jansen at auctions to be fakes is that they originate from him. Apart from the Beuys experts have investigated painting not one single painting. French authorities just take it for granted that everything confiscated t La Chaux in 1994 is forged. When the trial is over every thing will be destroyed notwithstanding Jansen's statement that there are many authentic works in his collection. These are works by Appel, Cocteau, Picasso, Magritte, Dali, Chagall, Miro and several Netherlands artists.


The Orleans, France, court has reached a decision. Master forger Geert Jan Jansen (57) was fined to one year imprisonment plus five years suspended sentence. Jansen is not allowed entrance in France for the next three years and all confiscated artworks will be destructed. Jansen's lady friend was confined as accomplice to 5 months imprisonment and a suspended sentence of 3 years.
The final sentence is much more severe than requested by the general attorney (5 months suspended imprisonment for Jansen). The general attorney intended to end the confiscation of all artworks. His was in accordance with Rudy Fuch's request. Yesterday Jansen declared that he will fight this sentence, if needed as far as the Strasbourg European courts. This is the first time Jansen is being sentenced. In vain The Netherlands Law authorities have been trying to chase him for many years. First suspicions against Jansen rose 1981. Police searched his Edam, The Netherlands, house but nobody filed a claim, and all charges were dismissed. Six year later Jansen again was in the centre of a huge art swindle affair. The Amsterdam antiques centre 'Spiegelkwartier' near the Rijksmuseum was deluged was numerous forgeries all of which pointed in his direction. One dealer was arrested and convicted. Jansen left the country and finally settled in France together with his lady friend. 1994 He was arrested in France. Dutch lawyers have expressed their surprise that this matter was turned into a court case six years later. All facts pointed into the direction of a legal fiasco. In spite of several public calls for claims French authorities were not able to get enough evidence.

Background information:

The Netherlands citizen who enters Sue Cubitt's office at the Munich auction house Karl & Faber march 1994 introduced himself as Jan van den Bergen. He shows a business card with the address of a gallery in Orleans, France. Under his arm his arm he carries a pen drawing by Chagall, a painting by Karel Appel, and a gouache by Asger Jorn. He is not interested in the price as long as these art works will be auctioned and sold quickly. Before Sue Cubitt is able to realize what happened the visitor leaves the building via the elevator. After his departure several experts investigate the art works. The certificate of authenticity that comes along with the Chagall appears to have a typo. It reads 'environs' where it should be 'environ'. This rouses suspicions. A Polaroid photographs is made of the karel Appel painting and sent to art dealer Kan Nieuwenhuizen Segaar. Nieuwenhuizen Segaar is Karel Appel's representative. He does not trust this matter and consults the artist. Karel Appel declares that this painting is his and that it can be auctioned without any problems. Cubitt still is not satisfied and gets in touch with the Chagall committee in Paris. After Easter an answer from the committee arrives. A Chagall expert who passed away a long time ago 'signed' the certificate. According to the experts the Chagall drawing is a forgery, though a very good one. The same problems arise with the Asger Jorn certificate of authenticity. Karl & Faber decides to return all art works to the owner stating that they are not able to guarantee the authenticity. This is the general policy of all auction houses. Sue Cubitt however decides to report this matter to the police. She calls 'hauptkommissar' Ernst Scholler of the Art and Antiques squad of the 'Landeskriminalamt' in Stuttgart. A quick search of other auction catalogues learns that Van den Bergen has offered art works for sale at several auction houses. Scholler decides to check the Gallery in Orleans, France. At the address on Van Bergen's business card is a wine bottle company. Via a complex route of false addresses and mailboxes the track leads to a farm at the small hamlet La Chaux, south of Poitiers. May 6, 1994, the Dutch dealer and his friend are arrested. In their farm, French police find 1600 suspect art works by Picasso, Matisse, Dufy, Miro, Cocteau and karel Appel. Jan van den Bergen's real name appears to be Geert Jan Jansen. For six years he succeeded in getting out of reach for the Amsterdam police who was looking for him because of forged Appel paintings. French and German detectives are most pleased with their findings. The Landeskriminalamt declares to have given the European art swindlers guild the blow of the century. French police talks about the largest art swindle since WW.II.

1943 Geert Jan Jansen was born the son of an art loving Philips engineer in Waalre, The Netherlands. As a small boy he was already very fond of art books. At his first visit to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam he spend his small pocket money on Rembrandt reproductions. As art history student he came in touch with Michel Podulke, and American art dealer from Polish origin. Podulke, together with a former parole officer Dieuwke Bakker, ran a Gallery Mokum in Amsterdam. This is where Jansen organizes art shows on regular basis. In the mid seventies Bakker and Podulke break up after a severe argument. Jansen opens his first private gallery 'Jacob', later to be followed by a second gallery 'Raam'. Fellow dealers praise his impressive feeling for art, but there is no financial success. Jansen, who contributed to the magazine Elsevier in those days, buys much of his art trade in Paris. It is obvious that many of the graphic art works offered in Jansen's gallery are 'hors' the regular limited and numbered editions. Lithographs with 'Úpreuve d'artiste' editions remain available again and again. Jansen is able to buy these in Paris as long as plenty of money is available. As his gallery's financial difficulties keep rising Jansen decides to sign Karel Appel posters and sell these as original lithographs. It does not take long until his first real forgery is made. It is a 'Karel Appel' gouache signed and dated 1951. Jansen offers this painting together with a matching frame for sale at a local auction. While sitting in the back of the auction room he observes that the painting is being sold for DGL. 2.600,00. The buyer is the famous architect Aldo van Eijck. A short time later Jansen offers another for sale at a London auction. The painting is depicted in the catalogue under the name; Child with toy', an underneath this name: certified by the artist. This mans that the auction house has send a photograph of the painting to Appel, and that the artist approved the painting. This gouache reaches a price far above the estimate. A year later this result can be found in a book with auction records. Never before a 'Karel Appel' reached so high a price. After they received information about a forged Bart van der leck painting police searched Jansen's house in Edam. Not much is found because Jansen just finished cleaning his house. Quite coincidentally police find 76 Appel lithographs on the ceiling of a cheese warehouse. According to experts these all are fakes. The handsomely framed paintings on the walls of the offices downstairs, all made by Jansen, are regarded as originals. This matter never reached a court since nobody filed a complaint. Jansen is invited for a meeting with the general attorney who tries to make a deal with Jansen: no law suit will be filed if Jansen promises to refrain from making forgeries for the next three years (!). Six years later the market again is loaded with forged Karel Appel paintings. Gallery owners start accusing one another. June 1988 police confiscates hundreds of fake Appel prints at the MAT gallery in Amsterdam This gallery attracted attention because of price stunts with Appel graphics. A couple of months later again police find fakes at this gallery. In cooperation with Interpol the hunt for the forgers gang is opened. The owner of MAT, Ruud Engenhulst, declares that he bought some 100 Appel forgeries and the Tripple Tree gallery. The owner of this gallery declares that he bought these Appels in Paris from the Dutch dealer Henk Ernste. Finally only Ernste is arrested. After four months of preliminary imprisonment this case is settled with a DGL. 5,500.00 fine. At that time Jansen already escaped The Netherlands, and finally setlles in France where is is being arrested together with his friend 1994.

From: Dan Chure

Re: Theft of Fossils

The article 'New Threats to Old Bones: The Theft of Fossil Vertebrates from Museum Collections', Cultural Resource Management, National Park Service, v. 23 no. 5: 18-22 is available free, and in published format, at (Acrobat file)
I any of the MSN members know of other incidents of fossil theft (vertebrate, invertebrate, or paleobotanical) I would appreciate hearing from them.
Thanks for the interest,
Dan Chure
Dinosaur National Monument
435-789-2151 x4006

Queen's visit fuels royal jewels row

A TUG of war has broken out between the Italian authorities and the exiled House of Savoy over the fate of the Italian royal jewels, which have lain in a bank vault for more than half a century. Senior officials in Piedmont, once the power base of the Savoys, who became the monarchy of a united Italy in 1870, said the "fabulous" jewels were the property of the Italian nation and appealed to the Prime Minister and President to have them put on public display "just as the British Crown Jewels are".
But Prince Victor Emmanuel, son of the last King who lives in exile in Switzerland, said the jewels belonged to his family. "They certainly do not belong to the state. They belong to the descendants of the House of Savoy." Raffaele Costa, a centre-right Forza Italia deputy for Mondovi, in Piedmont, said he had discovered that the last reigning King, Umberto II, had deposited the jewels in the Bank of Italy in June 1946 before going into exile. With them is a certificate declaring that the bank should only release them to "whoever has the right to them", a formula Signor Costa said was "obviously open to interpretation".
Signor Costa said the Queen's state visit to Italy next month would focus attention on the fate of Italy's own royal family. He said he had no idea of the value of the jewels, "but they are an important part of Italian history". They include a diadem of 72 pearls and 541 diamonds; a pair of matching gold bracelets studded with 940 diamonds; a brooch with 679 diamonds; Queen Margherita's own diadem, with nearly 2,000 diamonds; her emerald necklace; and her ropes of pearls, which one courtier said were "so long they went down to her knees". Il Messaggero said the King had bought her new pearls "whenever he felt guilty about his infidelities".

Sotheby's Shares Jump on News of Price-Fixing Settlement

Shares of Sotheby's Holdings rose more than 15 percent yesterday after the board of the beleaguered auction house agreed to pay $256 million to settle a class-action claim that it colluded with Christie's to fix commissions charged to buyers and sellers.
The board's action, taken Sunday, also set off speculation that the company was more ripe than ever for a takeover.
Shares of Sotheby's rose $3.13, to $23.44.
A. Alfred Taubman, the company's largest shareholder and former chairman, agreed to pay $156 million of the auction house's settlement cost. Of the $100 million Sotheby's has to pay, $50 million can be in the form of certificates offered like lines of credit to future sellers.
As part of the agreement, which is now before a federal judge for review, the privately held Christie's also has to pay $256 million. Investors have had little interest in Sotheby's stock for some time. Its price nosedived after a federal investigation into collusive practices gathered steam last January.
"It was a stock no one cared about yesterday," said George Sutton, a managing director of Dain Rauscher Wessels in Minneapolis. "But today they do because now that there's been a settlement something has to happen to the Taubman shares." Speculation that Sotheby's might be sold has been rife ever since Mr. Taubman, a 75-year-old real estate magnate and the majority shareholder, resigned as chairman in February amid accusations that he set commission fees with his one-time counterpart at Christie's, Sir Anthony Tennant. Sotheby's and Christie's are part of the ongoing federal antitrust investigation. While Sotheby's may still have another big check to write to settle its case with the Department of Justice, officials at the auction house said they believed that sum would not be as large as the $256 million payment. The stock is far from its high last spring of $46.75 a share, but Ronald Baron, chairman and chief executive of Baron Capital, the company's largest outside shareholder, with a $500 million holding, said he was pleased with yesterday's settlement.
"It removes a cloud from the company," he said. "But I don't think I've made much so far. I bought the stock for a little over $20 a share." James M. Meyer, director of research at Janney Montgomery Scott, the Philadelphia investment firm, said that despite its current woes, Sotheby's has many valuable assets.
"It's one of the two trusted entities in the art world and a company with access to the richest people in the world," he said. "The message now is that the shoe that hasn't dropped - the criminal side - is about to." This, he said, could precipitate a change in ownership. "Shareholders are eager to find somebody else to run the business," he said. "Like the Yankees, it's a franchise worth owning."