Two failed attempts by a fraudster to sell fake Greek artefacts “go to the heart of the public’s faith in the various auction houses of our land” a Crown Court judge has stated.
Judge Martin Edmunds QC handed 59-year-old Feltham man, Aleksander Ribnikov, a two-year suspended sentence after he admitted two counts of fraud by false representation. Ribnikov was arrested in February 2017 shortly before a fake Greek patera he consigned for sale to Timeline Auctions Ltd in Harwich was due to go under the hammer.
Armed with a dossier of provenance information, Ribnikov approached Timeline Auctions in November 2016 to offer the libation bowl for sale for £80,000-£100,000. The documents recorded that Ribnikov purchased the object from a man in Swansea in 1987 but turned out to be sham paperwork written in a Poundland notebook manufactured after 2013.
The scam was unveiled by the Metropolitan Police’s Art and Antiques Unit after a tip-off from the Art Loss Register (ALR). Listing the patera as 4th or 5th century BC, Timeline Auctions applied for a certificate from the ALR prior to the sale but the request was declined. The British Museum later confirmed the object was a fake.
While searching Ribnikov’s home in relation to the patera ploy police discovered further sham documentation indicating he attempted an earlier sale of fake Greek objects through Christie’s in 2016. The auction house refused to sell two metalwork objects and a marble lion head, which Ribnikov claimed to have bought in 1994.
Police investigation revealed the alleged vendor and provenance information provided by Ribnikov to Christie’s were pure fiction and his own invention. “It is quite evident he has worked quite hard at it“, Judge Edmunds said.