Man admits multi-million euro art forgery

A German man has admitted engaging in a spectacular series of art forgeries, faking at least 14 “masterpieces” that he said were the work of famous artists and selling them for millions of euros.

Man admits multi-million euro art forgery
Photo: DPA

Wolfgang B. is one of four people accused of taking part in the massive fraud, which netted them more than €20 million. A judge has told them they will receive no more than six years in prison if they fully testify about the scam.

“I painted the pictures alone,” he told the court in Cologne Tuesday, where the suspects are being tried. “It really was a lot of fun back then.”

The scam involved forging at least 47 works by famous avant-garde artists like Max Pechstein and Heinrich Campendonk, then swindling art houses and experts who believed the paintings were legitimate.

After Wolfgang B. created the art, his co-conspirators sold them, the court heard.

The 60-year-old said his life of forgery began in his teens when he helped his father create copies of Rembrandts and Picassos. In the 1970s, he continued making copies, but painted his own art too.

It’s not yet clear when the ring began scamming collectors, but Wolfgang B. said money was not his main motivation. Instead, he emphasized, he like playing on the greediness of experts, collectors and auction houses.

“I didn’t much like the art market or the dealers,” he said. “I really enjoyed doing it. You have to know how the art market functions and where the greediness is greatest.”

The group’s biggest sale was a fake Campendonk that went for more than €3 million.

DPA/The Local/mdm

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Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

The German government says it is in talks over further compensation for victims of the attack on the Munich Olympics, as the 50th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

Ahead of the commemoration in September, relatives of the Israelis killed have indicated they are unhappy with what Germany is offering.

“Conversations based on trust are taking place with representatives of the victims’ families,” a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP when asked about the negotiations.

He did not specify who would benefit or how much money had been earmarked, saying only that any package would “again” be financed by the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

On September 5th, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists  held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Horst Ossingert

The spokeswoman for the victims’ families, Ankie Spitzer, told the German media group RND that the amount currently on the table was “insulting” and threatened a boycott of this year’s commemorations.

She said Berlin was offering a total of €10 million including around €4.5 million already provided in compensation between 1972 and 2002 — an amount she said did not correspond to international standards. 

“We are angry and disappointed,” said Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer who was killed in the attack. “We never wanted to talk publicly about money but now we are forced to.”

RND reported that the German and Israeli governments would like to see an accord by August 15th.

The interior ministry spokesman said that beyond compensation, Germany intended to use the anniversary for fresh “historical appraisal, remembrance and recognition”.

He said this would include the formation of a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively” establish what happened “from the perspective of the year 2022”.

This would lead to “an offer of further acts of acknowledgement of the relatives of the victims of the attack” and the “grave consequences” they suffered.