The dark web is a hub of illegal products and services – from drugs to cyberweapons – one can purchase almost anything from the cybercriminal underground community. Now, it appears that even rare paintings can be bought and sold on the dark web. A stolen Gottfried Lindauer painting has reportedly been put up for sale by a dark web vendor going by the pseudonym Diabolo.
The painting is one of two that was stolen from an art gallery, the International Art Centre, in New Zealand in April. The 133-year-old painting titled Chief Ngatai-Raure is now reportedly listed for sale on the dark web marketplace White Shadow for $500,000.
"Here you can bid on an [sic] TOP SECRET original Painting from Bohemian painter Gottfried Lindauer that was stolen in New Zealand, Auckland 2017," reads the advertisement posted by Diabolo, who claims the painting is "100% genuine", Wired reported.
The painting has reportedly been on the dark web market for the past three weeks, during which time, the dark web vendor also launched a Bitcoin auction in addition to featuring a "buy now" price. Wired reported that there have so far been two bids for the painting, with the leading bid of 35.1129 Bitcoin – a little over $210,000.
"This listing is not for 99% from the darknet users because they don't have this money," Diabolo told Wired. "We think it's only for rich people and collectors (maybe government)".
The painting was spotted on the dark web market by ReSolve Cyber CEO Jim Wheeler. "We have seen hackers-for-hire, drugs and guns for sale on line, but fine art seemed like a new market," Wheeler told Wired.
The dark web vendor reportedly claims he is not associated with the theft of the painting or the people behind the theft.
However, the authenticity of the painting on sale remains a mystery. Wired reported that a representative of the International Art Centre, where the painting was stolen from, claims that the one on sale may be a hoax or a replica.
"The frame appears to differ from the frame within which the works were originally offered/illustrated – in New Zealand the carved black frames are usually referred to as Goldie frames," said Hamish Coney, the managing director of the Art and Object gallery in New Zealand. "The frame in the image [listed with the auction] is either photoshopped or added later."
"If it's genuine then I am pleased that it may still be in existence, but where it is and who's got it is the question," Coney told the New Zealand Herald. "The fact that this particular item, which is New Zealand art taonga, should appear on the dark web is probably an indication that it's not kosher, it's dodgy, it's not right, and all of the things that you would assume via common sense probably apply here.
"The image sent to me was literally a thumbnail size, so for me to draw any conclusions from what I have seen is not possible, whether its an image of the artwork in possession of someone who now has it – that I can't answer."
Meanwhile, New Zealand police are still investigating the heist of the two paintings. The New Zealand Herald reports that at the time of the theft, police said they believed three people were likely involved in the theft, which involved a van brazenly smashing into the art gallery's window before criminals carried out the heist.