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Posted Friday, October 2, 1998


A Fool and his Money

[Jewish Chronicle]The Jewish Chronicle, London
Friday, October 2, 1998

Salesman tricked into art scam by Holocaust pledge


A MAN CHARGED with an elaborate art scam is alleged to have told a former neighbour who innocently sold forged paintings that the proceeds would fund the purchase of Russian archive material to "disprove the revisionist theory of the Holocaust."

Southwark Crown Court was told that John Drewe had paid an impoverished artist to paint pictures in the style of modem masters.

According to prosecuting counsel John Bevan, he also planted fictional histories in the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Tate Gallery.

The worthless paintings were sold for thousands of pounds. Armed with the bogus background material, Drewe is alleged to have duped a string of salesmen into approaching galleries and auctioneers -- Sotheby's and Christie's among them -- to put the pictures up for sale.

Among those he recruited to sell the works on a commission basis was air-conditioning salesman Clive Belman, the former neighbour. Prosecuting counsel described Mr Belman -- who formerly ran a jewellery business -- as "a good salesman who knew nothing about art."

It was claimed Drewe had told him he was a nuclear physicist who belonged to a syndicate wishing to sell up to 300 paintings stored in safe-deposit boxes. Mr Belman was led to believe that funds from the sales would purchase material designed to counter the arguments of those who suggested that the Holocaust was a myth.The prosecutor said that as Mr Belman was Jewish, he "saw it as a worthy cause and was wholly taken in."

Believing the money would go towards such a cause, he was also persuaded of the need for discretion. "Mr Belman had no idea the works were fake." Mr Bevan claimed that Drewe appeared "unrepentant at the damage caused to the good name of others and unscrupulous in his attitude to those he used. He is a consummate and expert operator."

Drewe, 50, of Reigate, Surrey, and male nurse Daniel Stoakes, 52, from Exeter, Devon, deny conspiring with artist John Myatt and others to defraud between January, 1986, and April, 1996. Drewe denies further charges against him of forgery, theft and false accounting.

The trial continues.


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