‘Spider-man’ and accomplices sentenced in Paris museum theft

Three defendants given six- to eight-year prison sentences, hefty fines and ordered to pay the city €104m


On Monday, 20 February, hefty sentences and fines were handed down for the three defendants in the 2010 theft of five paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Modigliani, Braque and Léger—valued at €109m—from the Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris. The burglary was referred to by the prosecutor as “one of the worst in a museum in modern history” and “an attack against humanity’s heritage”.

Vjéran Tomic, aka “Spider-man”—the professional burglar who carried out the theft on 20 May 2010—was given the heaviest penalty, an eight-year prison sentence and a fine of €200,000. The antiques dealer Jean-Michel Corvez—considered by the court to be the instigator of the theft—was given a seven-year prison sentence and a fine of €150,000. The third defendant, the clock expert Jonathan Birn, who hid the paintings, was given a six-year prison sentence and a fine of €150,000.

During the reading of his sentence, Birn shouted, “I didn’t do anything to these paintings! Where are the paintings?”. He also pulled up his sweater to show a yellow star reading “Juif” (Jew) sewn to his shirt, the French news station La Chaîne Info reports. He was threatended with removal before sitting back down to hear the remainder of the judge’s statement.

The three men were also ordered to jointly pay €104m to the city of Paris, which owns the paintings. The works have yet to be located. Birn claimed that he panicked during an unrelated search of his home in 2011 and threw the canvases away, which neither the prosecutor, nor Corvez—who says Birn is too clever and too much of an “art lover”—believes.