Police nab art forgers who sold Miró, Matisse and Picasso fakes

Three detainees shuttled counterfeit drawings between Andorra and Spain

Two officers analyze one of the forged artworks.
Two officers analyze one of the forged artworks.Guardia Civil

Three people were arrested in Zaragoza and Tarragona on Tuesday after attempting to sell fake drawings they claimed were made by the artists Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse.

The detainees are being charged with fraud and intellectual property crimes.

The investigation began in July 2014 after a routine check by customs officials along the Spain-Andorra border at Farga de Moles (Lleida).

Civil Guard officers found an Andorra resident to be transporting drawings signed by Joan Miró inside his vehicle. There were also several documents attesting to their authenticity.

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But law enforcement officials requested several expert reports, all of which confirmed that the artwork was phony.

The Andorra man was placed under surveillance, and was found to be making frequent trips between the principality and the Spanish city of Zaragoza, where he would meet with gallery owners and collectors in a bid to sell the forgeries. During his trips he would leave the works in the office of a relative and lawyer in Tarragona, so they would not be seized by the Civil Guard at the border.

The salesman has now been arrested along with two other people, including a Zaragoza gallery owner who allegedly knew the artwork was not authentic and helped sell it to unwitting collectors.

The operation has yielded nine forgeries, including six counterfeit paintings by Miró, two by Matisse and one by Picasso, as well as a fake authenticity certificate for the latter.

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