Damien Hirst paintings in £1 million art fraud

April 7, 2010 | by | 0 Comments

A conman art dealer who swindled wealthy clients out of hundreds of thousands of pounds was facing jail after admitting theft and fraud.

Andrew Parkinson, 49, used his respected gallery to broker sales of original works by leading artists including Damien Hirst, Rolf Harris and Jack Vettriano.

But in many cases he would take prints or paintings from customers on the pretence of arranging their sale – but would fail to sell or return them.

He would also sell the same piece of artwork to several clients but fail to deliver it to any of them.

Yesterday he pleaded guilty to 23 counts of theft, one count of participating in fraudulent business carried on by a sole trader and one count of fraud at Taunton Crown Court in Somerset.

Parkinson, who now lives in Norwich, Norfolk, also pleaded guilty to eight counts of obtaining property by deception relating to times he took money from clients for artworks he never intended to deliver.

The court heard the charges relate to £250,000 worth of fraud – but victims estimate his total deceit could run to £1million.

Parkinson built up a trusted client base at his shop, the Street Gallery in Street, Somerset.

The charges, which span almost a decade from 1999 to 2008, involve works by Damien Hirst, Rolf Harris, Jack Vettriano, Robert Taylor, and Archibald Thorburn, among others – many of which were worth tens of thousands of pounds.

One of his victims, who did not want to be named, said the dealer would begin a relationship with a client by legitimately supplying them with paintings to build up their trust.

He said: ”Around mid 2006 he started taking deposits or full payment for pictures that never arrived.

”He would fabricate a story as to why he needed a deposit or full payment for a painting before he would give it to you.

”Ultimately he would then sell the same paintings he had already taken
deposits or full payment for to numerous people. He would sell them over and over again.

”The best example is Damian Hirst’s Olamine – basically he sold the same picture to at least six people.

”There were numerous people who were defrauded out of tens of thousands of pounds – I was one of them. Many of us have been in contact and we believe he acquired over £1 million fraudulently.”

Another victim, who did not want to be identified, added: ”The way he
conducted business is he sold various original or limited edition prints to
customers who considered him a friend.

”It was second nature to him to lie. There were no depths to which he
wouldn’t stoop.

”On some occasions, we’ve since found out, he was selling artwork that didn’t even exist.”

The prosecution also asked that another 20 offences be taken into account, which will be addressed at sentencing.

Adjourning the hearing for the preparation of documents to detail the value of Parkinson’s deception, Recorder Andrew Maitland said: ”You have pleaded guilty to a substantial number of offences involving grave dishonesty.

”I warn you that the court will have in mind imprisonment to some degree. You should prepare yourself for that.

”These were clearly offences where you were trusted with the property of others and stole them in the course of your business failing.”

Mr Maitland adjourned the proceedings for a sentencing date to be fixed.

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