Tokyo police arrest 2 suspects over fake artworks

Tokyo police have arrested two men for their alleged involvement in producing and selling forged prints of works by prominent Japanese painters.

They include forgeries of works by Higashiyama Kaii, a key postwar artist in Japan.

The suspects are 53-year-old Kato Yuzo, who operated an art gallery in Osaka City, and 67-year-old Kitabata Masashi, who owns a print factory in the city of Yamatokoriyama, Nara Prefecture. The police arrested them on Monday on suspicion of copyright violations.

An investigation by an art dealers' association discovered counterfeit prints of 10 works by Higashiyama and two other Japanese painters, Hirayama Ikuo and Kataoka Tamako.

The association says the counterfeits were sold at department stores in Tokyo and Osaka in the past several years.

Tokyo police suspect the two men were involved in the production and sale of fake prints of a work titled Kusa-aomu by Higashiyama, among others.

In an interview with NHK in February, Kitabata admitted that he was asked by Kato more than eight years ago to produce fake prints. But Kitabata said he didn't know how they were distributed.

An organization of art appraisers in Tokyo says at least 120 prints submitted by their owners for assessment were fakes.