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Van Gogh artwork fraudsters investigated in France

Four fraudsters that attempted to sell a false Vincent Van Gogh artwork in France are now being investigated, and could face up to 10 years in jail.

One man is being investigated for having attempted to sell a sketch of “a Van Gogh self-portrait”, and is suspected of being part of an illegal art ring discovered in Montpellier (Hérault, Occitanie). Several people are now under investigation.

The forgery was first suspected after a potential buyer raised the alarm, alerting police. Negotiations had been in the ballpark of “several million euros”, the would-be buyer said.

The artwork was seized, and turned over to experts for examination.

Authorities in Montpellier asked specialists at the Paris Musée d’Orsay, who said they believe the piece to be a fake - in part  because Van Gogh had never been known to create sketches in this style.

Three men and one women have been implicated in the case, and are being investigated for alleged attempted forgery in an organised group.

A couple living in Perpignan have also been accused of being involved. Another person, accused of putting the seller in touch with a potential buyer, has been questioned.

The initial seller, a Belgian man, told investigators that he had an official proof of ownership title for the piece, but later admitted that this was also a fake.

During their inquiry, investigators found several works of art at the Belgian man’s house, which are all now being investigated as part of the case.

Two men have now been placed in provisional custody, according to Montpellier prosecutor Christophe Barret.

Two of those in custody are already known to authorities due to other cases of fraud.

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