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Simcoe County man at centre of one of Canada’s largest art fraud investigations


A Simcoe County man is at the centre of one of the country's largest art fraud investigations.

James White, better known in the art world as Jim, has been charged alongside seven others in relation to the forgery and sale of fake artwork attributed to the renowned Indigenous artist Norval Morrisseau.

On Friday, OPP and Thunder Bay Police announced the charges following its two-year investigation into the case.

Police referred to White as a major distributor of forgeries for the Cowan Group, founded by Jeffrey Cowan of Niagara-on-the-Lake, who has also been charged in relation to the case.

"Their operation was very prolific," said Mark Jacobson, an artist and executive producer for the 2019 documentary 'There are No Fakes.' "They're probably responsible for tens of thousands of fraudulent prints."

Jacobson spent nearly two decades investigating fake Morrisseau paintings before his work on the documentary.

"I was very pleased to see some form of justice," Jacobson added.

For the Morrisseau Estate, the work of fixing the damage has only just begun.

"Not just for Morrisseau's name, but for other emerging artists," said Cory Dingle, who runs the estate. "If I can go buy a half-a-million-dollar painting for $5,000 on eBay, why would I bother paying anyone else?"

Dingle said the estate is also working on clearing the Morrisseau name from false information, which has been as challenging as finding fakes.

He also hopes the investigation will encourage the federal government to create a Canadian governing body for artwork, both from a civilian level and policing one.

"For example, in the United States, the FBI does indeed have its own Art Crime Team," he said. "When you speak with collectors around the world, you constantly hear, 'we do not want to invest in Canadian art; we have issues with your structure, trust and accountability."

In total, eight people face 40 charges.

None of the allegations have been tested in court. Top Stories

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