London - As hoaxes go this one's expensive and may have fooled the Middle Eastern gas-rich state of Qatar's royal family into parting with $250 million of their hard-earned shekels - er...dinars!
Cézanne's 'The Card Players' is one of five painted by the master circa 1892 and was talked up so much by New York art dealers that the brain-dead Al Thani family coughed up a quarter of a billion dollars to get their sticky mitts on it for their Doha gallery.
This weekend Impressionism experts meeting in London confirmed the existence of a number of superb, secret forgeries of which the %250 million Cézanne is said to be the prime exemplar.
"The literary world had its Hitler Diaries, of course," Picasso blue period specialist Sir Hugo Nutters commented, "now the art world has fallen for the equivalent scam - AND fobbed it off to those punch-drunk Qataris for some of their ill-gotten gas empire zillions."
"It's a sophisticated replica of the original," one former Guggenheim assistant curator concurred.
"Good thing the Abu Dhabian's didn't fall for the ruse, someone very high up in the US Government may have put them up to being part of the loop that saw frenzied bidding go through the roof!"
No names are being mentioned at this stage but the presence of a British art world supremo at a White House dinner the other month may just provide a clue to the nefarious players' IDs.
Bellini's 'Venus In Chains Smoking With St Joachim' may be another of the anonymous forger's repetoire and is up for sale in Geneva on April 1st.