The Plough Fake News

This page will focus on how Cor van L. misled the press. It wil provide a general overview of factually proven lies, followed by specific cases in which he used the media to his advantage. The reason Van L. was able to get these untruths published in the press can be found on the News page.


Due to the lack of understanding and the information on the Plough forgery cases being incomplete, Van L. was able to sneak untruths into the media coverage of the case. A prime example is the news article in Nieuwsblad van het Noorden of 20 September 1995. In this article, it is stated that appraiser Auke van der Werff had authenticated the works, and had found the works to be of high quality. Van der Werff later testified in the Altink II case that this report never stated anything of the kind, and that he had rescinded his original report immediately. This is not only an example of how Van L. cunningly used the chaos to his advantage, but also of bad journalism, as this would have been easily checkable with Van der Werff. What is even more surprising is that a year earlier in February that same newspaper had reported on Van L. abusing the aforementioned appraisal. Although this was a clear-cut mistake by the newspaper, it is a prime example of Van L.’s working method relating to the press. In numerous articles, he manages to sneak in untruths, such as non-existent sales to German museums, supposed authentications by experts, and damaging remarks about the incompetence of art experts. All these remarks, however, are proven either untrue or untraceable. If it were not for the chaos surrounding these cases, it would never have gotten past fact-checking. In general, it can be said that fact-checking severely lacked in the Plough forgery cases’ press coverage.

Renée Smithuis

The most aggravating example of how Van L.’s untruths managed to get into news articles was published in De Volkskrant on the 10th of August 1991. In the article, the journalist stated, based on a statement by Van L., that Smithuis had seen the paintings and had said that they were outstanding examples of The Plough works. Furthermore, Smithuis had supposedly bought several works and then resold them. The first strange part about this is that Smithuis is one of the first experts to have raised the alarm on the forged The Plough works. As a reaction to this article, she filed a complaint against the journalist responsible, stating that she had not been properly consulted and that the article contained untruths that damaged her reputation. The Dutch Board for Journalists sustained the complaint and ordered De Volkskrant to print a rectification, as well as a publication of board’s ruling. This case shows that Van L. not only managed to sneak blatant lies into the press but also that the press (in this case) had not acted according to the code of conduct.

Civil Case against De Telegraaf

Van L. did not only use the press to his advantage; if he didn’t like the reporting done, his litigious nature arose. This resulted in a civil case. At the very start of the entire forgery case on 6 June 1991, Van L. sued De Telegraaf and demanded rectification of their article stating that Van L. and his wife had sold forged The Plough works. The appointed judge decided that De Telegraaf was not obliged to rectify the article. The reasoning behind this verdict was the fact that De Telegraaf had been diligent, and were allowed to state the works were inauthentic based on the statements of consulted experts. The judge deemed the article neither untrue, nor unnecessarily aggravating.


The problems identified on this website’s News page led to opportunities for Van L. to get his untruths into the press. However, the apparent chaos and the complexity of the case do not excuse the conduct of the journalists involved. As shown in the examples, many untruths were able to get into the articles through simple mistakes made by journalists and their breaking of the code of conduct, which even resulted in a complaint case (which was sustained). Also in his dealing with the press, Van L.’s strategy becomes very transparant: once he feels threatened, he chooses to start litigation as a defense mechanism. But, as with all litigation started by Van L., his claims are judged unsubstantiated.

Accompanying Documents

*Where able translations of the news articles are given by Google Translate. Please note that these are automated translations and therefor may contain mistakes. For the original text please consult the Dutch version of this page.

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