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Swiss 'forgers' face landmark trial

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10:35 CEST+02:00

Seven people are going on trial in Lausanne in one of Switzerland's largest ever art theft and forgery cases, involving paintings by artists including Degas and Pissaro.

 

The defendants are accused of trying to sell over 120 counterfeit paintings between 2005 and 2008, for an estimated market value of 400,000 francs (476,000 $), according to the Corriere del Ticino newspaper, and with the theft of a Giacometti.

The paintings bore signatures ranging from Camille Pissarro and Edgar Degas to Rodolphe-Théophile Bosshard, Georges Braque and Edouard Vallet. Some paintings were painted by the forgers, whereas others were genuine paintings by minor artists onto which the forgers had added the signatures of better-known painters.

The ring was uncovered after a Lausanne pensioner reported the theft of her Giacometti. The painting had been stolen by two visitors who talked their way into her home and exchanged the painting for a fake. The discovery triggered a 4-year investigation.

The trial is expected to last two weeks, the paper said. Four of the defendants are art experts from Vaud, while the plaintiffs include several art galleries in the Geneva area, it said.

An expert in Bosshard's work, identified by prosecutors as the ringleader, has admitted involvement in the scam, but denied instigating it. He said he had become involved after encountering financial problems:

"He accepts that he has erred and he regrets it profoundly," his lawyer Elisabeth Chappuis told the court, according to TSR. 

Of the seven defendants, four are charged with fraud, two with theft and one with receiving stolen goods.

 

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