Two suspects charged over France theft of Botero statue

Two suspects have been charged in an investigation into the theft within yards of the presidential palace in Paris of a bronze sculpture by Colombian artist Fernando Botero, a judicial source said on Saturday.

Two suspects charged over France theft of Botero statue
Colombian artist Fernando Botero. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

One is a man in his 50s, currently in detention, who has been charged with aggravated theft for taking the sculpture of a mother and a child from a gallery in central Paris on November 4th.

The work called Maternity, worth an estimated €425,000 ($491,000), was found at the home of a relative of the other suspect — a lawyer who has been charged with receiving stolen goods.

The suspected thief had been arrested on Wednesday, after he was caught on camera, a source close to the investigation said.

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

“He quickly acknowledged the facts,” the source added.

The same man is suspected of having stolen a pre-Colombian statue from a Parisian gallery and a bronze piece by Alberto Giacometti during a salon on the Champs-Elysees in October.

The suspect told investigators that he had given the Botero statue to the lawyer.

During a search of his home, police found the pre-Colombian work and another stolen statue. The Giacometti work is still missing.

The brazen theft of the Botero statue took place at a gallery near the closely guarded streets where the French president's residence and the British and Japanese embassies are located.

Security around the Elysee presidential palace has been heightened since 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.

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 and sculptures hugely popular across the globe.


Revealed: The fastest way to get across Paris

Car, moped, public transport, or electric bicycle - which means of transport is the quickest way to get across Paris?

Revealed: The fastest way to get across Paris

One intrepid reporter for French daily Le Parisien decided to find out. 

The challenge was simple. Which mode of transport would get the journalist from the heart of Fontenay-sous-Bois in the eastern suburbs to the newspaper’s office on Boulevard de Grenelle, west Paris, fastest?

Over four separate journeys, each one in the middle of rush hour, the electric bicycle was quickest and easiest. More expensive than conventional bikes, electric bikes do come with a government subsidy.

The journey was described as ‘pleasant and touristy’ on a dry but chilly morning going via dedicated cycle lanes that meant the dogged journalist avoided having to weave in and out of traffic.

It took, in total, 47 minutes from start to finish at an average speed of 19km/h, on a trip described as “comfortable” but with a caveat for bad weather. The cost was a few centimes for charging up the bike.

In comparison, a car journey between the same points took 1 hour 27 minutes – a journey not helped by a broken-down vehicle. Even accounting for that, according to the reporter’s traffic app, the journey should – going via part of the capital’s southern ringroad – have taken about 1 hr 12.

Average speed in the car was 15km/h, and it cost about €2.85 in diesel – plus parking.

A “chaotic and stressful” moped trip took 1 hour 3 minutes, and cost €1.30 in unleaded petrol.

Public transport – the RER and Metro combined via RER A to Charles-de-Gaulle-Étoile then Metro line 6 to the station Bir-Hakeim – took 50 minutes door to door, including a 10-minute walk and cost €2.80. The journey was described as “tiring”.

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