UPDATE: Parisian Art Thief and Accomplices Sentenced to Prison

still-life-with-candleWe mentioned on this blog earlier this month that Verjan Tomic was on trial in Paris for his role in the 2010 theft of five works of art from the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris. To this day, none of the art has ever been recovered. Today, a judge sentenced Tomic to eight years in prison for his role in the crime. In addition to Tomic, Jean-Michel Corvez was sentenced to seven years in prison and Yonathan Birn was sentenced to six years in prison for their involvement in the crime. Beyond jail time, the three were ordered to pay restitution of €104 million, the estimated value of the paintings.

Corvez was an art dealer who supposedly commissioned the heist for €40,000 because he was interested in Ferdinand Léger’s Still Life with a Candlestick, 1922 (pictured) on behalf of an international collector. Tomic, who had a reputation for breaking and entering skills, carried out the crime for Corvez. When Tomic broke a window and a padlock to access the museum, he found that he did not trip the security system – the security system had been turned off due to false alarms as a result of over-sensitivity – so he had more time in the gallery than he expected. With this extra time, he decided to take other peices that caught his eye. In addition to the Léger, he took four other paintings including works by Braque, Matisse, Modigliani, and Picasso.

After the theft, Tomic relied on Birn, a watch dealer, who agreed to hide the paintings. When the investigation into the theft began to enclose on Birn, he panicked and supposedly destroyed the canvases to get rid of any evidence of a crime. During sentencing, it is reported that Birn broke down and stated that if he knew where the canvases were today, he would return them. Investigators doubt this and believe that the art is in the hands of unscrupulous dealers or collectors overseas.

Read more about this case in the Guardian, on the BBC News Website, or in Le Figaro (in French, with video).

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