MADRID — A Spanish businessman suspected of having dealt in millions of dollars of fake art has been arrested during Easter festivities in southern Spain, officials said today.
Art dealer Jose Carlos Bergantinos Diaz, who is wanted for fraud in the United States, was arrested Friday at a luxury hotel in Seville. The Interior Ministry said he was so surprised by his arrest that he had to be attended by medical workers.
Glafira Rosales, Bergantinos Diaz’s partner, was arraigned in New York in August, accused of peddling counterfeit art for 15 years as undiscovered works by world-renowned artists such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning.
The indictment charged Rosales with several offenses, saying she had charged two Manhattan art galleries more than $30 million for 63 pieces of fake art. Each was presented as previously unknown works by 20th-century abstract expressionist artists, also including Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell and Franz Kline.
The canvasses had actually been created by a painter working from a studio at his home in Queens. Each bogus piece was exposed to extreme temperatures and the outdoors to artificially age it, authorities said.
Around 50 of the pieces they peddled were claimed to have been the property of a person of Eastern European ancestry with residences in Switzerland and Mexico who had inherited the works from a relative and wished to remain anonymous, the indictment said.
Prosecutors said the galleries sold the paintings for more than $80 million, earning nearly $48 million in profits.
Bergantinos Diaz is to appear this week before a judge who will rule on the steps for a likely extradition to the U.S.