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Art fraudster Inigo Philbrick, was arrested after being accused of stealing more than $20million

A jet-setting art fraudster has finally been arrested after escaping the police for eight months, following accusations he stole more than $20million (£16,143,600) from art dealers. 

Inigo Philbrick, 33, from Connecticut, allegedly scammed art dealers from around the world by selling them the same artwork for inflated prices before his scam was uncovered in 2019. 

It’s a spectacular fall from grace for the contemporary art scene’s wonderboy, who opened galleries in Mayfair and Miami and seemed to have a ‘Midas touch’ for investing in works by emerging artists who went on to become successful. 

On the arm of his glamourous ex-girlfriend Victoria Baker Harber, who stars in Made In Chelese, his place in high society and the art world seemed secure. 

But he was arrested by the FBI in the Republic of Vanuatu, in Oceania, and was charged with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, which could see him spend 22 years in prison, while his assets, estimated at $70million, were frozen.

Inigo Philbrick, 33, from Connecticut, scammed art dealers around the world by selling them the same artwork for inflated prices before his scam was uncovered in 2019. He was arrested in the Republic of Vanuatu on June 11. Pictured with his ex-partner Francisca Mancini in the FraGalerie Patrick Seguin

Philbrick, whose father was the former director of the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Connecticut, started his career as an intern at the White Cube Gallery in London in 2010, after graduating from Goldsmiths College. 

Founder Jay Jopling told Le Monde he was ‘clever, ambitious, he had a good eye and an incredible instinct for business’.

He quickly ascended the ranks of the art world, opening his own gallery in Mayfair in 2013 and another in Miami.

By 2016, he was making $55 million a year thanks to his eye for emerging artists, buying works from up and coming talent, including  Wade Guyton, Christopher Wool, Rudolf Stingel and Sterling Ruby. 

Philbrick dated Made in Chelsea star Victoria Baker Harber. The art scene wonderboy was accused of defrauding $20million (£16,143,600) fro art dealers around the world

Philbrick dated Made in Chelsea star Victoria Baker Harber. The art scene wonderboy was accused of defrauding $20million (£16,143,600) fro art dealers around the world

This early success financed Philbrick’s taste for the finer things, jet-setting around the globe to St Moritz and Ibiza where he spent his money on drugs and partying. 

Convinced he had the ‘Midas touch,’ the gallery owner started to tread on dangerous ground when he promised buyers he coud get them ‘insane return on investments’ which failed to materialise. 

Between 2016 and 2017, Philbrick turned to another scheme in order to keep his business afloat. 

It was revealed Philbrick would partner up with other companies to buy artworks and re-sell them without notifying the other parties. 

Le Monde cites the example of a Picasso portrait from New York artist Rudolf Stingel, which the fraudster bought for $7.1million (£5,725,014)  with the German company Fine Art Partners, a financial services company specialising exclusively in the art market.  

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman paid around $5million to buy the immersive installation All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins (pictured) by Yayoi Kusama, even though German company, Fine Art Partners, also claimed ownership

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman paid around $5million to buy the immersive installation All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins (pictured) by Yayoi Kusama, even though German company, Fine Art Partners, also claimed ownership

Without notifying FAP, the gallery owner sold the painting for $6million (£4,841,400) to offshore company Guzzini Properties and pocketed the money. 

However, FAP was alerted to the coup when Guzzini Properties put the painting up for auction at Christie’s in 2017. 

At the same time, Serbian financier Aleksandar Pesko revealed that Philbrick had sold him 50 per cent ownership of the same work of art for $3.35million (£2,704,555). 

Pesko also bought a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting called ‘Humidity’ for $18.4m (£14,813,656) 50-50 with Philbrick after the fraudster convinced him they could sell it for $35million (£28,178,850) at Christie’s, but the sale was never materialised. 

On another occasion, Pesko had agreed to buy another Basquiat painting 50-50 with Philbrick, only to find Philbrick had made the same offer to another investor.   

After FAP sued Philbrick in 2019 in the hope of recovering other artwork they had bought jointly with the fraudster, it was revealed he had employed the same scheme to sell an installation by Japanese contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama to Saudi Arabia in 2019. 

In 2017, Fine Art Partners had bought the Kusama for $3.3million from an auction house in New York through Philbrick. 

It began suing Philbrick and his gallery in October 2019, seeking the return of art worth $14million (£11million) that had been purchased by Philbrick’s gallery, which included the pumpkin room.

Several other collectors have since accused Philbrick of fraud, including the billionaire businessmen, the Reuben brothers.

Facing a growing pile of accusations, Philbrick vanished in October 2019 and fled to Republic of Vanuatu in hopes to escape justice. 

However, the was arrested by local authorities after an investigation and handed to the US in Guam. 

‘As alleged, Inigo Philbrick was a serial swindler who misled art collectors, investors, and lenders out of more than $20 million,’ The US attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey S. Berman said in a press release.  

‘You can’t sell more than 100 per cent ownership in a single piece of art, which Philbrick allegedly did, among other scams. 

‘When his schemes began to unravel, Philbrick allegedly fled the country. Now he is in U.S. custody and facing justice,’ Berman added.  

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk