Italian Painter Arrested for Connection to Forged Old Masters Scandal

As investigations in an international Old Masters forgery scandal continue, 65-year-old Italian painter Pasquale “Lino” Frongia was arrested in his hometown of Emilia in northern Italy on Tuesday, the Art Newspaper reported Wednesday.

Frongia has been linked to notorious French art dealer Giuliano Ruffini, who is under investigation for allegedly selling forged Old Masters paintings. Ruffini, along with his son Mathieu and Frongia, are estimated to have made more than $220 million in sales to auction houses and dealers in London, Paris, New York, and Milan.

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Frongia’s arrest comes on the heels of a new warrant issued by French judge Aude Burési. Though the warrant was first served in 2019, the Bologna court ruled that because the charges were inconsistent they would not allow Frongia to be transferred to France.

Ruffini, however, was brought from Emilia to Paris late last year, where he was ultimately charged for gang fraud and money laundering. The 78-year-old dealer was granted bail for €1 million ($1.1 million) and placed under house arrest in Paris. Ruffini’s son Matthieu was also charged with money laundering and was granted bail for €200,000 ($218,236) and was allowed to return to Emilia.

The Ruffinis and Frongia have denied the allegations. The elder Ruffini has claimed that art experts, curators, and dealers attributed the sold paintings to such great masters as Bronzino, Brueghel, Cranach, or Hals. He also challenged the science that determined that the paintings were not originals, but instead recently made fakes.

Ruffini’s son, meanwhile, claims to have no knowledge of his father’s business. The investigation, however, alleges that Matthieu made several money transfers to Frongia. In the Bologna court, Frongia claimed these payments were for sales and restoration work he had completed for Ruffini.

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