Friday, August 27, 2010

Banksy forgers sentenced to community service

Lee Parker & Grant Champkins-Howard
Two men who sold fake Banksy prints were given a 12-month suspended sentence in July, at Kingston Crown Court, in west London. Grant Champkins-Howard, 44, of South Croydon, and Lee Parker, 45, of Eastbourne, had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud. They were also banned from selling anything on the internet for five years and ordered to undertake 240 hours of community service. The British graffiti artist Banksy, being anonymous, may have appeared a particularly easy target for fraudsters, since he would presumably be unwilling to appear in court. Lawyer Richard Mandel, prosecuting, said Howard and Parker were “keen Banksy enthusiasts who exploited the weaknesses of an anonymous artist”. They sold the fakes in Britain and abroad, mainly through eBay. The men had identified an opportunity, after prices of authentic prints rose by up to tens of thousands of pounds. Detective Constable Ian Lawson, of the Metropolitan Police Art and Antiques Unit, said after the case: “This was a lucrative and unscrupulous scam in which the culprits had no qualms about ripping off collectors.” An eBay spokesman commented: “We are delighted to hear of the sentences, having worked closely with the Metropolitan Police since September 2008.” The police were also in close contact with Pictures on Walls. Lawson believes the fraud has had a negative impact on the art market: “The harm done by the defendants goes beyond the immediate losses to their individual victims. Buyers’ confidence is vastly important in the legitimate collectors’ market in art. When fraudsters infiltrate fakes, that confidence is dented, with an inevitable [negative] effect on prices.” - Martin Bailey, The Art Newspaper

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