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Prison terms for art gallery couple who peddled fake paintings

A gallery in Helsinki’s design district sold counterfeit paintings under names such as Léger, Schjerfbeck and Repin over the course of five years.

Kuvassa taideväärennöksiä, Ilkka Lammin ja Fernand Légerin teokset.
Art fakes, purported to be by Ilkka Lammi and Fernand Léger. Image: Keskusrikospoliisi

Ten people have been sentenced in Finland's largest case of counterfeit art dealing. Helsinki District Court handed down sentences of up to five years in prison. Some of those convicted were given suspended sentences on Wednesday.

Those handed the longest prison terms of four and five years were a Helsinki gallery owner and her common-law husband. They were found guilty of dozens of crimes including aggravated fraud and money laundering, and in the man’s case, firearms offences. The two were also ordered to pay over 13 million euros in damages.

17 suspects, one died during trial

From Galerie Vision in Helsinki’s fashionable ’design district’ of Punavuori, they peddled fake works under the names of well-known nineteenth and twentieth-century Finnish masters. These included Helene Schjerfbeck, Reidar Särestöniemi and Hugo Simberg, as well as Ilya Repin (1844-1930), a Russian painter who spent most of his life in Finland and Fernand Léger, a French painter who visited Finland in the 1930s. Works purported to be by some of the same artists were involved in another major fake-art case earlier this year in the Tampere area.

A man who had helped them to sell the paintings over a period of five years received a suspended 14-month sentence. Charges against six other defendants were dropped altogether.

There were originally 17 suspects in the case, but one died during the legal proceedings, which lasted nearly two years.

Galerie Vision, meanwhile, went bankrupt in mid-October, with debts of more than half a million euros.

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