Two brothers from Girona who planned on swindling an Arab sheik into buying a forged Goya painting found out they were the ones who had been swindled when the 1.7 million Swiss francs they had received in payment turned out to be all in photocopied bills.
Spain’s National Police found out about the transaction in December 2014 when customs authorities in Avignon, France reported that they had detained the brothers after they entered the country from Turin with the fake bills.
From that point, the police uncovered details of a string of backstabbing deals that had led to the pair’s arrest. The identities of neither the siblings nor the sheik have been revealed.
The brothers originally bought the painting in 2003, thinking it was authentic
It all began when the brothers reportedly tried to sell the sheik a forged painting by Francisco de Goya – Retrato de don Antonio María Esquivel (Portrait of Antonio María Esquivel) – for €4 million.
The transaction took place in Turin where a person who said he represented the sheik gave the brothers 1.7 million Swiss francs. In turn, the siblings called a loan shark in Girona to give €300,000 to another person in the Catalan city who also claimed to represent the sheik.
The €300,000 was to pay the intermediaries’ commissions.
But when the brothers traveled to a Geneva bank to deposit the money, they were told that the bills were photocopied fakes.
The brothers, who now face swindling charges, bought the painting in 2003, thinking it was authentic, with a down payment of €20,000. They had promised to pay €270,000 but never delivered the rest of the money because the seller failed to come up with an authenticity certificate.
In 2006, a Girona court ruled that the painting was a forgery and forgave the remaining debt they held with the original seller.