Yet another case illustrating the terrible difficulties in prosecuting art fraud has come to an unexpected conclusion in Australia last week. A judge has quashed the guilty verdicts against dealer Peter Gant and conservator Mohamed Siddique who were both convicted of fraud in the case of two works by Brett Whitely that his widow adamantly insists were not painted by her husband.
The fate of the two paintings Blue Lavender Bay and Orange Lavender Bay which were purchased for A$2.5m and A$1.1m respectively remains unclear but the courts have decided the eyewitness testimony of two persons who say they saw the paintings year prior should not have been discounted by the jury:
Crown lawyer Daniel Gurvich QC said yesterday the prosecution could not disprove evidence given during the trial by defence witnesses Jeremy James and Rosemary Milburn, who both testified that they had seen the paintings in 1988. The prosecution told the jury at the time that the two witnesses were “honourable but mistaken”. Mr Gurvich said yesterday that the prosecution could not challenge the evidence given by the two key witnesses. “There is a significant possibility that innocent men have been convicted and each of them should accordingly be acquitted,” Mr Gurvich said.
Whiteley art fraud accused exonerated after prosecution drops case (The Australian)