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Culture

'Spiderman' thief jailed for eight years for €109m Paris art heist

media A woman at the Cantini museum in Marseille, south-western France, looking at the painting L'Olivier prés de l'Estaque (The Olive tree near l'Estaque) by Georges Braque during an exhibition in 2006 AFP/Anne-Christine Poujoulat

A thief nicknamed "Spiderman", who stole five masterpieces from a top Paris museum, was sentenced to eight years in prison on Monday for one of the most daring art heists in recent years.

Vjeran Tomic and two accomplices were also fined a whopping 104 million euros over the theft of five paintings by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Ferdinand Léger and Amedeo Modigliani from the Musée d'Art Moderne in 2010.

The artworks, which the City of Paris estimated were worth 109 million euros, are still missing.

Tomic, 49, was arrested in May 2011 and admitted carrying out the heist.

Two accomplices - a 61-year-old antique dealer accused of ordering the heist and a 40-year-old watchmaker who hid the paintings for a while - were given sentences of seven and six years respectively.

Alarms awaiting repair

Tomic was accused of cutting through a padlocked gate and breaking a window to get into the gallery, one of the most visited museums in the French capital.

Three guards were on duty that night but the paintings were only found to be missing from their frames the next day.

The museum's alarms had been awaiting repair for several weeks.

Tomic told police he had come for Léger's Still Life with Candlestick from 1922, not thinking he would also be able to steal another four.

Picasso, Matisse, Modigliani, Braque

The other works stolen were Picasso's cubist Dove with Green Peas from 1912 - worth an estimated 25 million euros - Matisse's Pastoral from 1905, Braque's The Olive Tree near l'Estaque from 1906 and Modigliani's Woman with a Fan from 1919.

All but the Modigliani were hung in the same room in the museum, which is home to more than 8,000 works of 20th-century art.

Tomic, a master burglar, said he took all five paintings because he liked them.

Athletically built and 1.90 metres tall, he gained his nickname by clambering into Parisian apartments and museums to steal valuable gems and works of art.

Spate of art thefts

Prosecutors claim he was spotted by a homeless man as he roamed around the museum in the days leading to the theft.

Police arrested him after receiving an anonymous tip and tracking his mobile phone.

There has been a spate of art thefts in Europe in recent years.

The most recent, in 2015, involved the theft of five paintings worth 25 million euros by renowned British artist Francis Bacon in Madrid.

Spanish police arrested seven people last year suspected of being involved in that theft.

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