Mohamed Aman Siddique

Brett Whiteley fraudster ‘helped uncover another fake’

The conservator who created fake Brett Whiteley paintings that sold for millions of dollars was also an art sleuth who helped his clients uncover fraudulent works. Mohamed Aman Siddique helped prove a work was wrongly sold by an auction house as a ­Eugene Von Guerard painting.

In a character reference to the Victorian Supreme Court, which will sentence Siddique for fraud ­offences this week, Mr Bleasel, a former head of the Australian Antarctic Division, told how Siddique helped him chase a refund from the auction house.

Despite his doubts about the painting, Mr Bleasel had bought it after the auction house and two art dealers confirmed it as an authentic work by Von Guerard, a colonial landscape artist.

The painting needed cleaning and repair so Mr Bleasel sent it to Siddique. “He said that as he had strong doubts about the authenticity of that painting, he had started cleaning around the signature. That cleaning revealed that the signature had originally read ‘after Eugene Von Guerard’ but the ‘after’ had been painted over to make the painting more valuable.”

Mr Bleasel received a refund, but said the incident helped form his view of questionable practices in the Australian art industry.

Two men copied famous artworks and sold them for millions

Two men hid out in a Melbourne studio, painting exact replicas of Brett Whiteley’s paintings and then sold them for millions of pounds. Art restorer Mohamed Aman Siddique and dealer Peter Gant were found guilty in May on charges of obtaining and attempting to obtain financial advantage by deception over the fakes.

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Peter Gant at the Supreme Court in Melbourne, during the Whiteley fake art court case (Stuart McEvoy for The Australian)

Barristers said at a pre-sentence hearing that Gant would never work in the industry again because of extra punishment he suffered due to publicity around the trial. Sydney Swans chairman Andrew Pridham fell victim to the art fraud and bought a fake of Whiteley’s Big Blue Lavender Bay painting, which he thought was an original, for £1.5 million. The men also replicated Orange Lavender Bay and sold it for £600,000 and they were gearing up to sell a third, Through the Window, for almost £500,000.

The pair face the possibility of a maximum ten year prison sentence and have flagged their plans to appeal.

The hearing continues.