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Arrested: Spanish art swindler wanted by FBI

The Local · 21 Apr 2014, 11:38

Published: 21 Apr 2014 11:38 GMT+02:00

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Spanish entrepreneur José Carlos Bergantiños Díaz was arrested on Friday at a hotel in the Spanish city of Seville after months on the run, Spain's Interior Ministry reported.

Wanted for allegedly selling fake paintings by big name artists including Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, the Galician suffered a panic attack after being detained, and had to briefly hospitalized.

Bergantiños, from Galicia's Lugo province, is currently being held in Seville but is expected to be transferred to Madrid where he is expected to face extradition hearings.

He has already appeared before a judge in Seville, local Spanish daily Faro de Vigo reported on Monday. 

US federal prosecutors and the FBI believe the art expert and philanthropist and his girlfriend Glafira Rosales over 15 years ran an art scam that saw them rake in $80 million (€58 million) by selling off dozens of fake artworks by renowned artists.

Rosales pleaded guilty to participating to the scheme in 2013 and has been participating with authorities since that time, the New York Times reported.

The paintings sold by the pair were actually produced by a Chinese immigrant working out of a basement in the New York neighbourhood of Queens and aged artificially, US authorities said.

These pieces of art were then presented as genuine with the signatures of the famous artists also forged, authorities added.

Story continues below…

Bergantiños is "an autodidact with a good nose (for art)," as well as being a "great escapist and storyteller", sources close to the man told Spain's ABC newspaper. 

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