New Details Emerge in Russian Avant-Garde Forgery Ring Case

Storage Facility of the Art Forgers Photo: BKA

Prosecutors in the German city of Wiesbaden have officially announced details of the charges against a suspected art forgery ring on Monday, Hessischer Rundfunk reports.

Prosecutors accused the co-owners and manager of the Wiesbaden-based SMZ Gallery Itzhak H., 68, Moey Ben H., 42, and Adenande Ben H., 41, of commercial and gang-fraud, and forgery. The men are said to have caused damages of almost €11 million ($12.5 million) from the sale of 19 forged Russian avant-garde paintings in the style of Wassily Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich, Natalia Goncharova, and Alexander Rodchenko. (see: “International Art Foregery Ringleaders Charged” and “Masterminds of Russian Avant-Garde Art Forgery Ring Go to Trial“)

The gang was uncovered in an international crackdown in 2013 in raids across several German cities, and in Switzerland and Israel.

The accused have denied the charges and insist that the paintings are genuine. They claim the paintings were sourced from an Israeli collector and dealer with access to previously unknown archives in the former Soviet Union. The defendant’s attorney Andreas Groß, told the court “Those familiar with Mr. Malevich’s productivity or those who know how Alexandra Exter worked, know that the few paintings hanging in public museums cannot be all.”

Groß explained the lack of provenance certification by claiming that collectors of such artworks faced persecution by Stalin. In response, state prosecutors alleged that “They assigned a fabricated and seemingly seamless history to each painting from production to sale, which in no way corresponded to the truth.”

State prosecutors are confident they have enough evidence to prove the paintings are forgeries. Investigators suspect that most of the paintings were manufactured in an Israeli studio by a Russian painter and were subsequently sold through the SMZ Gallery to private collectors and auction houses throughout Europe.

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