Forgery artist 'lured by lies'

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The Independent Online
AN IMPOVERISHED art teacher has claimed he was lured into painting art forgeries by a man who said he was a nuclear scientist and an acquaintance of Margaret Thatcher.

The elaborate and sophisticated plot to defraud the art world involved copying works by artists such as Giacometti, Chagall and Matisse, some of which were destined for the Tate Gallery in London.

John Myatt, who was paid pounds 100,000 to create the series of fakes claims he was lured into the scam by John Drew, whom he believed was a high- flying businessman with connections in the intelligence services.

Mr Myatt, 53, from Sugnall, Stafford, who has admitted conspiracy, was giving evidence at Southwark Crown Court, London, as a key prosecution witness against Mr Drew. Mr Drew is accused of making a fortune by selling Myatt's work as genuine masterpieces with the help of fake provenances planted in museum archives.

Mr Myatt said: "I was being treated like a big-time businessman. One's vanity was quite ghastly. Mr Drew would discuss with me... the people he met, the people he was in contact with and the difficulties he was having selling the paintings. I paid rapt attention to what he was saying and tried to apply my mind as to how he could either get out of the situation or improve it, without getting prosecuted."

He claimed that Mr Drew described himself first as a doctor and then as professor of physics. "He told me he was a research scientist... retained by the Government to inspect the safety of nuclear submarines."

John Bevan QC, prosecuting, alleged Mr Drew not only enjoyed the money he made from his dishonesty but took an "intellectual delight" in fooling one victim after another.

Mr Drew, of Reigate, Surrey, denies one count of conspiracy to defraud between 1986 and 1996 and also pleads not guilty to charges of false accounting, forgery, theft and using a false instrument with intent.

The trial continues today.