Mumbai: ED Searches 6 Locations Of Art Dealer Rajesh Rajpal In Fake Paintings Scam

Mumbai: ED Searches 6 Locations Of Art Dealer Rajesh Rajpal In Fake Paintings Scam

Rajpal was booked last December by the Mumbai Police for the sale to forged paintings of leading artists Manjit Bawa and an FN Souza worth Rs 17.90 crore to Puneet Bhatia, India head of the US-based private equity TPG Capital.

Dharmesh ThakkarUpdated: Saturday, March 16, 2024, 08:05 PM IST
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ED Searches 6 Locations of Art Dealer Rajesh Rajpal In Fake Paintings Scam | File pic

Mumbai: The Enforcement Directorate (ED), Mumbai conducted search operations at six locations of Art dealer Rajesh Rajpal of Churchgate based Art India International under the provisions of the PMLA. Rajpal was booked last December by the Mumbai Police for the sale to forged paintings of leading artists Manjit Bawa and an FN Souza worth Rs 17.90 crore to Puneet Bhatia, India head of the US-based private equity TPG Capital.

ED recovered and seized several incriminating documents and digital devices during the searches linked to the fake paintings scam exposing the cartel trading in fake artwork, forging authenticity and provenance certificates, transferring money through cash with the involvement of prominent art galleries and art dealers.

“The money trail revealed that huge cash amount were sent by domestic "hawala" operators to the members of the cartel in the form of commission or free and discounted artwork. Cash generated from the sale of fake artwork was used to purchase antiques in connivance with bullion traders. The same antiques were then sold at auctions through reputed auction houses to launder the cash into bank accounts,” said senior ED official.

The cartel allegedly involved a prominent art gallery in south Mumbai, ace corporate lawyers and bullion traders, wherein fake artwork of original paintings was passed off as genuine with forged authenticity and provenance certificates.

The fake artwork of "national treasures" Jamini Roy, M F Husain, F N Souza, Jahangir Sabavala, S H Raza, N S Bendre, Ram Kumar and others were sold to art collectors claiming links with royal kingdoms, antique art collectors and small-time artists who created these fake replicas and projected those as authentic with the help of fake certificates of authenticity, provenance and affidavit of ownership.

Puneet Bhatia had filed a complaint with Tardeo police alleging that paintings by leading Indian artists worth ₹ 17.90 crore sold to him were fakes and named solicitor Vishwang Desai who once represented Cyrus Mistry and art dealer Rajesh Rajpal for fraud and cheating.

The FIR alleged that Rajpal and Vishwang Desai had conspired to financially dupe Puneet to the tune of ₹17.9 crore through the sale of fake paintings along with forged and fabricated certificates.

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