Man Accused In French Art Heist Claims He Threw Away $100M Worth Of Stolen Art

Image courtesy of imyanhai

When you’re about to get caught with something you shouldn’t have, trying to get rid of that evidence is only natural. But while flushing that joint down the toilet before your mom catches you in the act makes sense, destroying millions of dollars worth of precious art seems like a pretty extreme reaction.

A co-defendant in one of the biggest art heists ever testified in court this week that he destroyed and threw away five masterpieces — by Picasso, Matisse, Modigliani, Braque, and Fernand Leger — worth more than $100 million, the Associated Press reports.

The pieces were allegedly stolen by a thief nicknamed “the spider-man” in 2010 from Paris’ Museum of Modern Art, and have never been found. The man is one of three people who went on trial on Monday.

“I threw them into the trash,” he repeated three times while in tears, the AP reports. “I made the worst mistake of my existence.”

The investigating judge and other defendants at trial aren’t onboard with those claims, however, as investigators believe the paintings have been taken out of France intact. They haven’t been able to prove that, but the man’s co-defendants have testified that he was “too smart” to destroy such fine art.

One co-defendant, the so-called “the spider-man,” testified that he broke into the museum pretty easily, removing the glass from a bay window without breaking it, cutting a padlocked metal fence behind it, and hopped from room to room without the guards noticing.

The accused thief confessed to stealing the five paintings and offering them to another defendant, who has admitted to receiving the stolen goods. That defendant says he was too worried to keep the artworks in his shop after a few months, and showed them to his friend — the one who claims to have destroyed them — who agreed to buy one of the paintings and store the rest in his studio.

He says he panicked when police started poking around, so he broke the stretcher bars on all the canvasses by kicking them and then threw them into the building’s trash.

The accused thief is charged with stealing public cultural property, while the other two are accused of receiving stolen goods.

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