After working as an art teacher, Rizvan Rahman embarked on a second career as an art dealer in 2004, setting up business in Leicester under the name Haslam and Purdey and specializing in modern British art. He dealt with galleries and auction houses across Britain — and peddled fake paintings with remarkable ease. If clients discovered the inauthenticity of their purchases, Rahman would feign astonishment and refund their money. Amazingly, he continued to thrive, selling more than 30 forgeries of work by postwar British artists — including Mary Fedden, Jack Pender, Sandra Blow, Terry Frost, and Wilhemina Barns-Graham — over a period of almost two years.
According to the Telegraph, police told Leicester Crown Court that they seized 19 forged paintings from Rahman's studio in late 2009, including fake works by Picasso, Bacon, and Freud, as well as — and this was another red flag — books titled "The Art Forger's Handbook" and "Confessions of a Master Forger." Prosecutor Gordon Aspden said that Rahman sold fakes for a total of £179,450 ($282,000), a tally that, after making refunds to angry buyers, netted him at least £61,950 ($97,500).
To explain to prospective customers where the fake works came from, Rahman passed them off as either pieces from his private collection or gifts from his father, and would produce fake documents to show their authenticity. In court he acknowledged selling fake paintings, but denied having made the forgeries himself, claiming that they were decorative items purchased for his home.
The 40-year-old Rahman also admitted to police that Sotheby's is currently seeking a refund of £65,000 ($102,000) for a painting supposedly by George Leslie Hunter, although this transaction is not part of the case against him, the Telegraph reports. According to the Daily Mail, he has been sentenced to 18 months in prison and may also face seizure of his assets, which include a house in the ritzy Leicester suburb of Stoneygate.
Despite all the requests for refunds, Rahman managed to stay afloat a surprisingly long time. "Mr. Rahman's reputation was pretty renowned in the art world," Leicestershire police detective Jason Helmn told the BBC. "After the first couple of galleries I contacted, it quickly became quite obvious that Mr. Rahman was well-known and that his reputation for selling fake paintings went before him." Among the forgeries were 13 paintings advertised as by Mary Fedden, who once taught David Hockney at the Royal College of Art. The 96-year-old Fedden had a chance to see one of the fakes. "She was less than impressed by the forger's work, saying it was a very bad painting," the prosecutor said, according to the Telegraph. Well, now the crooked art teacher is being taught a lesson.