The Judiciary Police (PJ) have revealed that six defendants have been arrested for being part of an art counterfeiting network estimated to be worth €250,000.

"If the pieces were legitimate, the value that the scammer could eventually get is, at this time, with the 40 pieces at around 250 thousand euros", said the coordinator of criminal investigation of the Northern Directorate, Pedro Silva.

The investigation, which first began three years ago, culminated in the carrying out of several house searches and in establishments in Greater Porto, which resulted in the seizure of 26 paintings this week.

In addition to the arrest of a merchant aged around 50, who the PJ says is the main person responsible for the forgery network, five more defendants were arrested for crimes of qualified fraud and forgery.

Among the paintings seized are forgeries of works by national artists, such as Almada Negreiros, Cruzeiro Seixas, Mário Cesariny, Noronha da Costa, José Malhoa, Cutileiro and Domingos Alvarez, and also by an international artist – Malangatana – who has one of the two forgeries seized valued at 13 thousand euros.

The Northern Board admits, however, that there may be more works that were not identified, and more are suspected of involvement in this network of art forgery that operated throughout the country.

The scam also involved a "forger" who was in a prison in the North Zone - whose identity the PJ did not want to reveal – who produced and signed the paintings, and “a group of individuals responsible for placing them on the market”.

The production of fake paintings took place in the craft room of the prison establishment, where the "forger", in a "legitimate" way, was provided with the necessary materials, such as canvases, brushes, sheets of drawing paper, tubes of paint and oil, bottles of linseed oil, charcoal pencils, tracing paper, carbon paper and others.

After production, the paintings left the prison, also "legitimately", through authorised visits - as there was no means to identify the forgeries - they were then transferred to the commercial circuit by the head of the network, who was the one who coordinated the whole scheme.

According to the inspector, this “forger” was arrested for crimes of another nature, and is not currently being detained.

The investigation, which had the collaboration of the Directorate-General for Reinsertion and Prison Services, continues to identify all the counterfeit pieces produced, as well as their current location, adds the PJ.