Two men convicted in Australia's biggest art fraud case have had their convictions quashed after prosecutors admitted the Melbourne pair might be innocent of faking and selling Brett Whiteley paintings.
Prosecutors on Thursday conceded appeals by art restorer Mohamed Aman Siddique, 68, and dealer Peter Stanley Gant, 61, who had been found guilty by a jury last year.
"There is a significant possibility that innocent men have been convicted and each of them should accordingly be acquitted," Daniel Gurvich QC, representing the Crown, told the Court of Appeal.
The judges said they had already concluded that, and slammed prosecutors for waiting until 4:45pm on Wednesday to tell the court of their change of heart.
"This is a rare and almost unique instance of the (jury) system having failed in that regard, " the judges said.
The men were sentenced to jail in November but the trial judge, Michael Croucher, put a stay on sending them to prison because he believed the convictions would be quashed on appeal.
The case involved paintings by Whiteley, one of Australia's most celebrated artists, who died in 1992 aged 53.
At trial, prosecutors alleged Mr Siddique created three fake Whiteley paintings in his Collingwood studio between 2007 and 2009 and that Mr Gant facilitated the sale of two of them.
Blue Lavender Bay was purchased in late 2007 by Sydney Swans chairman Andrew Pridham for $2.5 million, while Orange Lavender Bay went for $1.1 million.
The third painting, Through The Window, was listed for sale for $950,000.
The artist's former wife, Wendy, gave evidence at the trial that Orange Lavender Bay, which she was invited to inspect in 2009, had not been painted by her late husband.
"The lack of spontaneity, the lack of wit, the lack of spirit - the lack of everything," Ms Whiteley told the court on April 22, 2016.
"It looked as though, as though it had been traced and knitted together badly."
Ms Whiteley on Thursday was stunned to hear of the quashed convictions and maintained her view that the painting was not original.
"I'm no expert in legal proceedings, and I have no idea what went on in court when I wasn't there, but I do not understand this decision," she told AAP.
"Do they (the court) know enough about art to make this decision?
In sentencing, Justice Croucher had noted there was "cogent evidence" that supported Gant's account that he'd purchased all three paintings in 1988.
And on Thursday prosecutors conceded the grounds of appeal, which referred to evidence, including a 1988 consignment note for three Whiteley paintings.
While Justice Croucher made the same conclusion during the trial, the jury did not take up his offer to make a finding of not guilty before hearing the closing addresses.
On Thursday, the Court of Appeal accepted the Crown's position that the guilty verdicts were unsafe and should be quashed.
The men did not comment as they left court.
Ms Whiteley said: "I feel sorry for the people who bought the artworks in good faith and I feel sorry for the whole Australian art world."