‘Spider Man’ Art Thief Could Face Up to 10 Years in Jail

Prosecution has asked for jail time and hefty fines for the thief and his accomplices.

Vjeran Tomic, the main suspect in the case of the 2010 theft of five masterpieces from the Paris Modern Art Museum, arrives to his trial on January 30, 2017 at the Court house in Paris. Photo courtesy BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images.

A Paris prosecutor has asked for heavy sentences for the notorious “Spider Man” burglar and two accomplices, who are being tried for the 2010 theft of five Modernist paintings from the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.

Vjeran Tomic—colloquially known as the “Spider Man” or “Spider” for previous heists involving scaling the sides of Parisian apartment buildings—could face 10 years in jail for breaking into the museum through a window and stealing paintings by Fernand Léger, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Georges Braque, and Amedeo Modigliani.

Last week, Jonathan Birn—a clockmaker who had the task of hiding the paintings after the burglary—tearfully confessed in court to having destroyed and trashed the five works, which carried a combined estimated value of $116 million, the Art Newspaper reports.

Birn could face up to seven years in prison, while the third defendant, antiques dealer Jean-Michel Corvez, could face eight. Prosecution also asked that all three conspirators be hit with the maximum fine: €150,000 to €300,000 (about $161,000 to $322,000).

Fernand Léger, Still Life With Candlestick (1922). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Fernand Léger, Still Life With Candlestick (1922), is one of five paintings stolen by Vjeran Tomic in 2010. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In court last week, the defence’s lawyers attempted to downplay the theft, telling the court that the paintings “are not sacred,” and that if the museum had truly valued them, it would have repaired its security system. The museum’s alarms were not functioning during the burglary, and Tomic was able to sneak past security guards.

But the city of Paris’ lawyer, William Bourdon, emphasized that the museum should not be to blame for the heist, despite its “faulty security,” or the fact that, according to Tomic, “apartments are usually better protected than this museum.”

“It’s one of my easiest and biggest heists,” Tomic said outside the courthouse on Friday, the New York Times reports.

Prosecution, on the other hand, called the theft “one of the worst in a museum in modern history,” and asked that heavy sentencing be considered in an effort to “repair an attack against humanity’s heritage.”

Official sentencing will take place on February 20.

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