Art Auction Fraud
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Basic Information

An art auction fraud is typically a way to make a bribe or other corrupt payment whilst making it look like a legitimate transaction.

The individual slated to receive the payment places something - traditionally a work of art, but potentially anything they possess, on the block for a public auction. The person intending to make the payment then attends the auction accompanied by one or more shills. The shills then bid up the price of the item, far above any reasonable value, until it reaches the figure to be paid, plus the auctioneer's commission and tax, at which point the sale is closed and the payment made. This means that the "seller" receives their payment in an apparently legitimate manner … the buyer, incidentally, also receives an item with a "proven market value" which can then be used in other manners such as as collateral for a loan (to be defaulted upon) or destroyed in an insurance fraud. Or it can be thrown in the garbage, where it probably belongs.


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Game and Story Use

  • This sort of thing can explain the apparent success of various politically connected artists, and, indeed, the market for "political memorabilia".
  • Woe betide anyone who buys the overvalued item at its ticket value and then attempts to realise that value…
  • PC PIs may find themselves hired by an insurer to look into the theft of some valuable artwork that the owner seems remarkable indifferent about having stolen…
  • Conversely, less honest PCs may see a great opportunity to steal a valuable piece of art that has just been acquired by some corrupt industrialist… only to find it unfencable - both because of the associated heat and the complete lack of actual value.
  • An obvious conflict to have centered around the auction would be two people competing for the right to bribe the seller.
  • Large parts of the art world have been suggested to be a money laundering institution… what happens when a buyer decides to double-dip on their crimes?
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