(Saanich Police)

Saanich Police say hundreds of art pieces worth tens of millions of dollars combined, seized from an Oak Bay art dealer, have been successfully returned to their rightful owners.

As of Wednesday, June 1st, roughly 900 pieces have been sent back to the collectors, estates, or artists themselves—located across Canada and in the United States.

In April, Saanich PD’s Major Crime Unit executed three search warrants in Saanich, Oak Bay, and Langford and found over 1,000 art pieces locked away in storage units.

It was an investigation that ensued after a local art owner told police they entrusted a dealer with four paintings, including original Emily Carr pieces, for consignment and potential sale at an art gallery.

But when the gallery closed up shop and the dealer fled, the owner became suspicious and filed a police report; as investigators discovered other victims in the same boat.

“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,” police said.

On April 21st, the art dealer was arrested 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 PD, who say fraud and false pretence charges are being prepared for submission to Crown Counsel in the coming weeks.

“The return of the art has been a labour-intensive process but on overall success, as we have been able to return over 75% of the pieces we seized,” added Cst. Markus Anastasiades.

“We attribute this success to the media coverage and attention this file received, as well as the art community across the country spreading the word to one another. We’re still hopeful we will be able to return all of the pieces we have.”

As over 200 pieces remain unclaimed, police are working to explore all avenues possible to return the art. Anyone who suspects Saanich PD may have their art in their possession should email art@saanichpolice.ca.

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