Spain’s National Court ruled Tuesday that a businessman accused of being part of a group that commissioned and sold $33 million in high-priced fake art passed off as famed expressionist works can be extradited to the United States to face charges in New York City.
The court issued the ruling for Jesus Angel Bergantinos Diaz, who is indicted in New York on federal charges of being part of the ring that created, and sold to Manhattan art galleries, fake art attributed to artists such as Jackson Pollack, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning Franz Kline and Robert Motherwell.
It could take months for him to be sent to the United States because he can appeal and Spain’s government must also approve the extradition, said a court official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of a rule preventing the official from being named.
Also charged in the U.S. is his brother, Jose Bergantinos Diaz, and Pei Shen Qian, the Chinese artist who allegedly painted the works from a home studio in the New York borough of Queens.
Qian collected only hundreds or thousands of dollars each for the fakes. He has fled to China. His paintings were promoted as never-before-exhibited and previously unknown works of art, eventually attracting more than $80 million from unsuspecting customers.
The Bergantinos Diaz brothers are accused in the indictment of taking part in the 15-year scam with New York art dealer Glafira Rosales, who pleaded guilty in 2013 and said she arranged for sales proceeds to be transferred to Spanish banks.
Tuesday’s ruling did not affect Jose Bergantinos Diaz, who is being sought by U.S. authorities for extradition but has asked to be tried in Spain, the court official said.
A civil trial brought forward by clients who bought some of the paintings ended last week in New York with an undisclosed settlement just before the once highly respected president of a gallery was about to testify.
The Knoedler & Company gallery closed in 2011 and had defended itself against claims resulting from $69.8 million in sales from the collection of bogus paintings, saying it was duped by the fakes.
The trial focused on claims from Domenico De Sole, chairman of the board at Sotheby’s auction house and a former Gucci CEO, who said the gallery refused to return $8.3 million he spent on a fake painting.
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