DETECTIVE work by a Cornish auctioneer has led to a jail sentence for a 40-year-old former art teacher who defrauded galleries and members of the public by selling fakes.
Leicester Crown Court heard on October 12 how, between January 2008 and October 2009, Rizvan Rahman (who began a second career as an art dealer under the name Haslam and Purdy in 2004) sold more than 30 forged oils through well-known auction houses and galleries. He occasionally produced spurious documents as proof of provenance and, in the event of discovery, would express surprise and offer a refund. The total amount involved was just shy of £180,000, with Rahman's net profit after refunds at least £62,000.
The forgeries typically aped modern British works by L.S. Lowry, Jack Pender, Mary Fedden, Sandra Blow, Terry Frost, George Leslie Hunter and Wilhelmina Barns-Graham.
Penzance auctioneer David Lay was the first to contact the police after receiving in the post two works purporting to be by the late Mousehole artist Jack Pender (1908-98) - an artist he knew personally and for whom Lay's hold the auction record at £8500. Unsure of their authenticity, he also noticed eight similar works (also offered in pairs) had sold at regional auctions in recent times.
He showed the pictures to Pender's son who confirmed they were fakes and conversations with other auctioneers indicated all had been consigned by the same individual.
In December 2009 police searched Rahman's home and third-floor art studio in Leicester, where they seized 19 oils from a collection of 168 paintings.
Rahman (who maintains he did not paint the pictures) admitted two counts of fraudulent trading, eight counts of selling false works and two of possessing articles (documents) for use in fraud. In addition to an 18-month jail sentence he now faces a proceeds of crime hearing to seize his assets.