Three men convicted in $110m Paris modern art heist
An agile thief nicknamed 'Spiderman', an antiques dealer, and an art expert were sentenced to prison yesterday and ordered to pay Paris for stealing five masterpieces from the city's Modern Art Museum worth €104 million (US$110 million.)
The paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Modigliani, Braque, and Fernand Leger have not been seen since the dramatic 2010 heist.
The Paris court convicted Spiderman Vjeran Tomic of stealing the paintings and sentenced him to eight years in prison. Jean-Michel Corvez, the antiques dealer who orchestrated the theft, was sentenced to seven years.
Yonathan Birn, who stored the paintings and told the court he destroyed them out of fear of getting caught, screamed at the judge, who sentenced him to six years in prison.
His lawyer, Caroline Toby, called Birn's sentence "particularly severe".
The court also jointly fined the men an eye-popping €104 million for the loss of the paintings, but the verdict did not detail how they might go about raising even a fraction of the fine.
Birn, a 40-year-old expert and dealer in luxury watches, previously told the court that he threw the masterpieces in the trash and "made the worst mistake of my existence".
Investigators believe that the paintings were smuggled out of France, although they were not able to prove that, court documents showed. Birn's co-defendants testified that he was "too smart" to destroy the masterpieces.
Tomic, a thief with 14 previous convictions, said that before sentencing, he got a buzz from the May 20, 2010, overnight break-in. He took advantage of failures in the security, alarm, and video-surveillance systems to move around the high-ceilinged museum near the Eiffel Tower.
"It's quite spectacular. There is an adrenaline rush the moment you enter the space," he said. "The sounds resonate from one side to the other."