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‘Spiderman’ burglar in French court over Picasso heist

Bertrand Guay, AFP | Vjeran Tomic, suspected of stealing five masterpieces from Paris's Modern Art Museum in 2010, arrives in court on January 30, 2017.
3 min

A burglar notorious for his acrobatic heists went on trial in Paris on Monday over the 2010 theft of five masterpieces, which have been estimated to be worth more than €100 million and are still missing.

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Vjeran Tomic, a Serbian national known as “Spiderman”, is facing 14 charges related to the robbery of paintings by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Georges Braque, Fernand Léger and Amedeo Modigliani.

Two accomplices are also standing trial on charges of handling the stolen goods.

Tomic, 49, said he took the paintings from the Modern Art Museum – one of the most-visited museums in Paris – simply because he "liked" them.

A rock climbing enthusiast, he earned his nickname ‘Spiderman’ for clambering into posh Parisian apartments and museums, stealing valuable gems and works of art.

Five for the price of one

On May 19, 2010, a thief cut through a padlocked gate and broke a window to get into the Modern Art Museum, which is run by the city of Paris and is a short walk from the Eiffel Tower.

The museum's alarms had been awaiting repair for several weeks and the thief managed to knock out a security camera.

Three guards were on duty that night, but the paintings were only found to be missing the next morning as the museum prepared to open.

A policeman packs up a painting frame outside the Paris Modern Art Museum after five works were stolen on May 20, 2010
A policeman packs up a painting frame outside the Paris Modern Art Museum after five works were stolen on May 20, 2010

When police arrested Tomic in 2011 he claimed he initially broke in for Léger's "Still Life with Candlestick", and didn’t imagine he could steal another four.

Authorities put the total value of the haul at 100 million euros, but experts say they could be worth twice that much.

Paintings missing

Authorities believe Tomic sold the works of art to two different dealers shortly after the daring heist.

Interpol put out an alert to its 188 member countries in the hope of recovering the five paintings, but so far they all remain missing.

There has been a spate of art thefts in Europe in recent years.

The most recent, in 2015, involved the theft of five paintings worth 25 million euros by renowned British artist Francis Bacon in Madrid.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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