Thousands of fine art pieces worth tens of millions of dollars combined have been seized by Saanich Police, following an investigation into an Oak Bay art dealer.
A local art owner said they entrusted the art dealer with four paintings, including original Emily Carr and David Blackwood pieces, for consignment and potential sale at an art gallery.
But when the gallery closed up shop and the dealer was nowhere to be found, the owner became suspicious and filed a police report on April 11th.
A police investigation ensued, leading detectives to find several other victims in the same boat—they had consigned art to the dealer, who in turn ceased all communications.
Over the next few days, Saanich PD’s Major Crime Unit executed three search warrants in Saanich, Oak Bay, and Langford to find many art pieces locked away in storage units.
Six-hundred pieces of art were found in the first search, with 100 and 300 found in the second and third search, respectively.
“The total number of pieces of art seized is just over one thousand, with an estimated value in the tens of millions of dollars. The art was seized by police, safely transported, and stored at a secure location,” explained Saanich PD.
Police say the dealer was arrested last Thursday, April 21st, but later released on several conditions with a future court date.
Their identity won’t be revealed until charges are sworn in court, according to Saanich Police, who say fraud and false pretence charges are recommended.
“The dealer was taking art from people with the intention of consigning or appraising the art, later ceasing all contact, all the while selling the art without reimbursing the owners or artists,” said Const. Markus Anastasiades.
“As the investigation continues, detectives are in constant communication with the artists, their families or representatives, and the owners of the art in an effort to return all of the artwork to the rightful owners,” he added.
Saanich Police believe others associated with the Oak Bay gallery may have tried to reclaim their artwork without luck. Police now encourage these people to reach out via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.