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CRIME

Brazen thief steals Botero statue from France’s most guarded street

French police are hunting a daring art thief who stole a bronze statue worth nearly half a million euros from a gallery within yards of the presidential palace in Paris.

Brazen thief steals Botero statue from France's most guarded street
A sculpture by Colombian artist Botero on the Champs-Elysées. NOT the one stolen! Photo: AFP

The thief simply walked into the gallery and helped himself to the statue of a mother and child by the Colombian artist Fernando Botero.

He then coolly walked unchallenged down one of the most closely guarded streets in France, home to the British and Japanese embassies as well as French President Emmanuel Macron's official residence, the Elysee palace.

Security around the Elysee has been heightened as a part of France's state of emergency after the country was hit by a series of terror attacks over last two years.

The gallery is also almost opposite the interior ministry, which is in charge of security and the police.

According security camera footage, the bearded thief caressed the 10-kilo (22-pound) statue of typically fleshy Botero figures, then looked around him before taking the statue from its plinth and discreetly making an exit.

No alarms were set off.

Staff at the Bartoux gallery only realised it was gone when the gallery closed on Saturday evening, police said.

Botero, 85, is Latin America's best known living artist, and is renowned for his slightly surreal and often comic fat figures, which have made his paintings hugely popular across the globe.

The stolen sculpture, which is worth at least 425,000 euros ($491,000), is one of eight made by the artist, all of different sizes.

Botero, who divides his time between Paris and Italy, could not be contacted.

“It's really a nightmare, we hope to get it back” staff at the gallery told French media.

CRIME

French court convicts 8 for stealing Banksy from Paris terror attack site

A French court on Thursday convicted eight men for the theft and handling of a Banksy painting paying homage to the victims of the 2015 attack on the Bataclan concert hall in Paris.

French court convicts 8 for stealing Banksy from Paris terror attack site

Three men in their 30s who admitted to the 2019 theft were given prison sentences, one of four years and two of three, although they will be able to serve them wearing electronic tracking bracelets rather than behind bars.

Another man, a 41-year-old millionaire lottery winner and street art fan accused of being the mastermind of the heist, was given three years in jail for handling stolen goods after judges found the main allegation unproven. His sentence will also be served with a bracelet.

Elsewhere in the capital, the defence was making its final arguments in the trial of the surviving suspects in the 2015 Paris attacks themselves, with a verdict expected on June 29.

‘Acted like vultures’ 

British street artist Banksy painted his “sad girl” stencil on the metal door of the Bataclan in memory of the 90 people killed there on November 13th, 2015.

A white van with concealed number-plates was seen stopping on January 26, 2019 in an alleyway running alongside the central Paris music venue.

Many concertgoers fled via the same alley when the Bataclan became the focal point of France’s worst ever attacks since World War II, as Islamic State group jihadists killed 130 people at a string of sites across the capital.

On the morning of the theft, three masked men climbed out of the van, cut the hinges with angle grinders powered by a generator and left within 10 minutes, in what an investigating judge called a “meticulously prepared” heist.

Prosecutor Valerie Cadignan told the court earlier this month that the perpetrators had not sought to debase the memory of the attack victims, but “being aware of the priceless value of the door were looking to make a profit”.

She said the thieves “acted like vultures, like people who steal objects without any respect for what they might represent”.

During the trial, Bataclan staff said the theft sparked “deep indignation”, adding that the painted door was a “symbol of remembrance that belongs to everyone, locals, Parisians, citizens of the world”.

Investigators pieced together the door’s route across France and into Italy, where it was found in June 2020 on a farm in Sant’Omero, near the Adriatic coast.

Three men involved in transporting the door were each jailed for 10 months, while a 58-year-old Italian man who owns a hotel where it was temporarily stored received a six-month suspended sentence.

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