Australian criminologist Duncan Chappell and Dr. Saskia Hufnagel write on "The Beltracchi Affair: A Comment on the "Most Spectacular" German Art Forgery Case in Recent Times" in the Spring/Summer 2012 electronic issue of The Journal of Art Crime (now available by subscription).
Abstract: On the 27th of October 2011 the four persons accused of the ‘most spectacular’ art forgery case in German post-war history were sentenced to jail terms ranging from 21 months to 6 years. The accused were Wolfgang Beltracchi (61), the painter of the forged works; his wife Helene Beltracchi (53) and her sister Jeanette Spurzem (54) who helped him in various ways; and the ‘logistical expert’ in the case, Otto Schulte-Kellinghaus (68). Considering the financial damage the forger group had caused, the embarrassment of buyers, dealers, experts and auction houses, as well as the considerable publicity the trial incurred, this seemed a remarkably mild verdict. However, observing the way in which art forgers at large appear to be dealt with by the justice systems of various countries, it could be said that the case just confirms a reoccurring pattern of lenient sentencing. This article will examine the case and its repercussions.
Duncan Chappell is a lawyer, criminologist and former Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology. He is also the Chair of the Australian Research Council’s Center of Excellence in Policing and Security. Currently an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Sydney he has researched and published on art crime as well as acting as an expert in art crime cases. His recent publications include Manacorda, S. and Chappell, D. Crime in the Art and Antiquities World. Illegal Trafficking in Cultural Property (New York: Springer, 2011).
Saskia Hufnagel is a Research Fellow at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security (CEPS), Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia. Her PhD studies were completed at the Australian National University (ANU) on the topic ‘Comparison of EU and Australian cross-border law enforcement strategies.’ Her current work focuses on comparing legal frameworks in Australia and the EU, particularly in the fields of mass gatherings, surface transport, maritime and aviation security. She conducts further research in the field of EU and Australian police cooperation and more specifically the policing of art crime. Her publications include 114 ‘Cross-border police co-operation: Traversing domestic and international frontiers’ (2011) Crim LJ 333 and she co-edited ‘Cross-border Law Enforcement - Regional Law Enforcement Cooperation - European, Australian and Asia-Pacific Perspectives’ (2011) Routledge. Saskia is a qualified German legal professional and accredited specialist in criminal law.