Fake Big Blue Lavender Bay painting

Peter Stanley Gant and Mohamed Aman Siddique will have to wait a little longer to find out their sentences for creating and selling forged Brett Whiteley artworks, after the Victorian Supreme Court yesterday delayed handing down their sentence.

The pair, who were found guilty in May of obtaining financial advantage by deception, were due to face sentencing on Monday morning.

However, a last-minute $2.5 million compensation bid by Sydney Swans president Andrew Pridham and a $990,000 bid by art dealer John Playfoot delayed proceedings. Pridham, who is also an investment banker, had purchased the fake Whitley Big Blue Lavender Bay from Gant in 2007. Playfoot was also duped and left out of pocket to the tune of $990,000, having refunded his client after unknowingly brokering the sale of another fake Whiteley, Orange Lavender Bay.

The sentencing judge, Justice Michael Croucher, said he was “troubled by the long delay” and seemed concerned that the compensation application was being brought at such a late stage.

“I’m not prepared to sentence the accused until I have heard submissions on the questions raised. Unfortunately that will mean yet further delay in the conclusion of these proceedings, but that is unavoidable.” Croucher said yesterday.

“I was due to sentence today, and there was, in my view, a significant factor relevant to mitigation, particularly in the case of Mr Siddique, that that might be affected by all of this; that’s one thing to consider.”

“Equally, if there’s to be some massive order for compensation made against your client [Mr Gant] and Mr Siddique, whether it’s jointly and severally, or whether it’s some other way … that in turn may impact on sentencing.”

“Well, it just troubles me … but this is a criminal proceeding where there’s already been a long delay, an even longer delay for various reasons, and now at the very much the 11th hour things are being raised again and the whole thing has to be put off.” Croucher said.

“The general theory is that compensation is simply returning a person to his or her rightful position, and generally it has no impact on sentence, or a very indirect impact on sentence because of the way in which it might impact on that person’s life circumstances perhaps.”

“But this case is different for the reasons that were conceded on the plea itself.”

Reflecting on the last-minute upheaval, Croucher said that the apple cart had be been tipped over, the horse had bolted, and that it needed to be reined in and therefore the sentencing had to be adjourned.

The bail of each accused has been extended to October 12, which is when the next hearing will take place.

Plans to appeal against the conviction are already in the works.

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Peter Fray

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