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'Guilty' verdict on the spectacular 2010 Paris art theft

February 20, 2017

The man responsible for France's biggest-ever art robbery, Vjéran Tomic, has been sentenced to eight years in prison. But where are the stolen masterpieces, worth 100 million euros, now?

This picture from 2006 shows one of the paintings stolen in Paris: "The lady with the fan" by Amedeo Modigliani
This picture from 2006 shows one of the paintings stolen in Paris: "The lady with the fan" by Amedeo ModiglianiImage: picture-alliance/dpa

For an over 100 million euro ($106 million dollar) art heist in 2010, Vjéran Tomic was sentenced to eight years in prison on Monday.

The 49-year-old burglar, dubbed "Spiderman" for his acrobatic heists, admitted stealing artworks by Picasso, Matisse, Modigliani, Braque and Léger from the City of Paris' Museum of Modern Art.

Tomic, who has a criminal record of 14 previous offences, was accompanied by two accomplices, who obtained sentences of six and seven years.The thief and his accomplices were also ordered to pay a fine of 104 million euros ($110 million, close to the estimated value of the paintings) to the city of Paris,
owner of the Museum of Modern Art, where the theft took place.

The paintings have never been found. One of the accomplices, Yonathan Birn, who confessed to being a receiver of stolen goods, said that he threw the artworks in the trash - but the investigators do not believe him.

'Spiderman' broke into museum unnoticed

The masked thief broke into the museum around 3:00 a.m. on May 20, 2010. He entered the gallery by removing the glass from a window without breaking it. The theft went unnoticed by the three guards on duty that night, and made headlines as it exposed surprising failures in the museum's security systems. The motion detector had been malfunctioning for months. The alarm, which should have been set off by the break-in, was also out of order.

The burglary was only noticed early the next morning during one of the guard's rounds. Footage from the surveillance cameras showed that a single person had climbed through the museum's window.

Did the burglar get a tip-off from one of the museum's employees, as art insurance expert Dirk Heinrich suggest in a DW interview? The museum was definitely not sufficiently protected, Heinrich said.

The police traced Tomic through an insider's hint. The stolen works are so famous that they couldn't be sold, yet they are still missing.

The most expensive among the stolen paintings was Picasso's work "Le pigeon aux petits pois" ("The Pigeon with Green Peas"). The other stolen works were by Henri Matisse, Georges Braque, Fernand Léger and Amedeo Modigliani.

sd/eg/rf (dpa, AFP, AP)