Daniel Grant does some of the best work on the art market. Here in his Huffington Post column he answers the overlooked question of what happens to confiscated fakes:
The FBI and the U.S. Postal Service, which also investigates counterfeit art frauds over the years, generally don’t want to give the fakes back to the person convicted of selling, or trying to sell, them for fear that they will be used in a future scam. “You see the same artworks showing up again and again, sometimes three or four times,” said Lynne Chaffinch, program manager for major art thefts at the FBI. The federal law enforcement agency maintains a database only of stolen art, not fakes and forgeries, but there is a high degree of overlap, because a large percentage of stolen art is actually counterfeit. “I see a lot of fakes,” she said. “In the stolen art area, fakes tend to travel with the story that they’re stolen. The works aren’t shown around, and no one asks a lot of questions. No one goes to an appraiser to check on it.” […]
“The best way to insure that a counterfeit artwork doesn’t resurface in the art world is to destroy or deface it,” said Catherine Begley, a former special agent in the New York office of the FBI. “Shred it, incinerate it, stamp it so that no one will be fooled again.”
In fact, both the U.S. Postal Service and the FBI try to do exactly that, permanently marking the work (branding a sculpture or applying an ink stamp to a painting or work on paper) as a fake, requiring that the work be accompanied by a certificate describing it as counterfeit, applying (through the U.S. attorney in charge of trying the case) to a judge for permission to destroy the work or pressuring the suspect to forfeit or abandon the work to the government as part of a plea agreement.
What Happens to Confiscated Art ‘Fakes’? (Huffington Post)