Glafira Rosales, one of the key figures in the Knoedler Gallery fraud case, has just been ordered by an American court to pay $81 million to the victims of the immense fraud that shook the art market in 2011.
The Long Island art dealer had pleaded guilty before the federal court in Manhattan in 2013. She had already been sentenced to three years of probation and nine months of house arrest for wire fraud, complicity, money-laundering and tax evasion.
She had admitted her role in the sale of fake Rothkos, Pollocks and de Koonings through the important Knoedler Gallery, which closed in 2011 as a result of the scandal. Over a period of 15 years, Rosales participated in the sale of more than 60 forgeries created in Queens by the Chinese painter Pei-Shen Qian. Rosales, her partner José Carlos Bergantiños Diaz, and Diaz’ brother Jesus Bergantiños Diaz then sold the paintings to galleries and, in particular, to Ann Freedman, their intermediary at Knoedler’s. They told the gallery that the paintings came from a well-known but anonymous Swiss owner, referred to as Mr. X. The forgeries were transported in the back of Rosales’ car.
A spokesman for the US Attorney’s office explained to Artnet that the sentencing had required a particularly long time as the fraud had taken place over a fifteen-year period, rendering the victims sometimes difficult to identify. The first sales occurred in 1994.
One of the victims of the scandal was Domenico De Sole, the former head of Gucci, who bought a fake Rothko for more than $8 million in 2004. The court case between him and the Knoedler Gallery was eventually settled out of court in February 2016.
Glafira Rosales is currently the only person detained. The two brothers fled to Spain, of whom Jesus has disappeared and José has avoided extradition on the grounds of health problems preventing him from travelling, and the painter Pei-Shen Qian is still in hiding in China.