More than 1,000 pieces of fine art police say are collectively worth tens of millions of dollars — including three valuable Emily Carr paintings — have been seized by police during an investigation into a local art dealer in Oak Bay, B.C.
On April 11, someone contacted the Saanich Police Department to report they had entrusted a local dealer with four pieces of fine art for consignment and potential sale at an art gallery in Oak Bay, according to a statement Thursday.
The pieces were three original paintings by Emily Carr and a watercolour painting by David Blackwood, both renowned Canadian artists.
The owner became suspicious when the gallery recently closed and attempts to contact the art dealer had gone unanswered.
"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," Const. Markus Anastasiades wrote in the statement.
Police soon found that there were several other victims that had consigned art to this dealer, and that the dealer had ceased all communications with those victims as well.
Over the next several days, police said they carried out three search warrants at storage sites in Saanich, Oak Bay and Langford.
More than a thousand art pieces found
As the searches progressed, police said detectives seized more than 600 art pieces at the first site.
The next turned up more than 100 pieces, and at the final site, more than 300 pieces were found, totalling more than 1,000 artworks with an estimated value in the tens of millions of dollars.
The artworks are now being stored at a secure location, police said.
The art dealer, whose identity, police said, cannot be released until charges are sworn in court, was arrested on April 21, and was later released on several conditions with a future court date.
The Saanich Police are recommending criminal charges against the art dealer, who could be facing multiple counts of fraud and false pretence.
Police said detectives are communicating with the owners of the artworks, in an effort to return all of the art to their rightful owners.
Anyone with information or who has handed over art to the dealer is asked to contact the Saanich Police by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.