In Paris, a burglar dubbed “Spiderman”, notorious for his daring acrobatic heists, went on trial. 49-year-old Vjeran Tomic has been charged over the theft of 5 masterpieces for €100 million from the Paris Modern Art Museum. Canvases by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Ferdinand Leger and Amedeo Modigliani are still missing.

If the Court announces its verdict on the guilt of this man,
he faces 20 years in prison.



Жорж Брак. Оливковое дерево близ Эстака
Оливковое дерево близ Эстака
Жорж Брак
1906
Пабло Пикассо. Голубь с зелёным горошком
Голубь с зелёным горошком
Пабло Пикассо
1912, 65×54 см
The Vjeran Tomic, a skilled rock climber from Serbia, admitted to carrying out the heist. In May 2010, he and two alleged accomplices got into one of the most-visited galleries in Paris, by breaking the window. The museum’s alarms had been on repair, and Tomic has somehow knocked out a security camera.

Three guards were on duty that night, but the paintings were only found to be missing the next day just as the museum prepared to open: empty frames were hanging on place of the paintings. 

The presiding judge at the trial said that the heist was carried out with "disconcerting ease." 

Left: Pablo Picasso, Dove with Green Peas, 1911.

Prosecutors claim Tomic was spotted by a homeless man as he roamed around the museum shortly before the robbery. Police arrested the malefactor after receiving an anonymous tip and tracking his mobile phone.
Фернан Леже. Натюрморт с подсвечником
Натюрморт с подсвечником
Фернан Леже
1922, 116×80 см


After detention in May 2011, Tomic told the police he had initially planned to steal only Ferdinand Leger’s Still Life with Candlestick (1922), not thinking he would also be able to grab another four. Besides the Leger's painting, the other works stolen were Picasso’s cubist Dove with Green Peas (1911) — alone worth an estimated 25 million euros — as well as Matisse’s Pastoral (1905), Braque’s Olive Tree near Estate (1906), and Modigliani’s Woman with a Fan (1919).

All canvases but the Modigliani were hung in the same room in the museum. The Modern Art Museum is located in the well-heeled 16th district of Paris, which is home to more than 8,000 works of 20th-century art.




Left: Ferdinand Leger, Still Life with Candlestick, 1922.


Tomic, who had already served long sentences for 14 previous offenses, said he stole the paintings simply because he liked them. In an interview before the court session, he compared himself to Arsene Lupin, a charming literary character who ransacked rich Parisians’ homes. Short stories and novels about the "gentleman-robber" came out of the pen of Maurice Leblanc since the early 1900s until the writer's death in 1941.


Анри Матисс. Пастораль
Пастораль
Анри Матисс
1905, 55×46 см

Authorities put the total value of the haul at 100 million euros. However, some experts say that the figure is higher twice as that, while admitting it would be impossible to sell these masterpieces on the open market.


Амедео Модильяни. Женщина с веером. Портрет Лунии Чеховской
Женщина с веером. Портрет Лунии Чеховской
Амедео Модильяни
1919, 100×65 см

For similar thefts court usually sentences criminals to 10 years in prison, but Vjeran Tomic can get twice as much, given his criminal record. The Serb earned his nickname for clambering walls to break into posh Parisian apartments.

The five paintings stolen from the Modern Art Museum in Paris remain missing so far. An art dealer who admitted to having the paintings for a short time said he dumped the priceless canvases in a garbage can, which authorities do not believe.



Witten by Vlad Maslow on materials form Agence France-Presse. Main illustration: Vjeran Tomic arrives to his trial on Jan. 30, 2017, at the Court house in Paris. Photo: Bertrand Guay / AFP.