At Trial, Co-Defendant Claims He Tossed $100 Million in Stolen Art

A 1906 pastoral scene by Matisse stolen from the Modern Art Museum in Paris on May 20, 2010.
A 1906 pastoral scene by Matisse stolen from the Modern Art Museum in Paris on May 20, 2010.
(Interpol)
  • “Nature morte au chandelier” by Fernand Léger, 1922, dimensions 116 x 80 cm

    “Nature morte au chandelier” by Fernand Léger, 1922, dimensions 116 x 80 cm

    Interpol

Five paintings by the likes of Picasso, Matisse, Modigliani, Léger and Braque were stolen from the Museum of Modern Art in Paris almost seven years ago. A trial began Monday for three co-defendants in the 2010 heist, one of the biggest art thefts in history.

Yonathan Birn tearfully claimed that he threw the over $100 million in modern art masterpieces in the trash. Main suspect Vjeran Tomic, dubbed “the Spider-Man” by French news media for his stealth climbing into the museum for the theft, is convinced Birn is "too smart" to have the tossed the artwork. Investigators also believe that Birn took the paintings out of France.

61-year-old antiques dealer Jean-Michel Corvez is the third co-defendant. He says he just wanted the Léger, and was surprised by Tomic's taking of the other artworks, thus he brought in Birn, a watch repairman, to disperse of them. The trio faces 10 to 20 years of prison time for the theft.

Among the missing artworks: Fernand Leger's "Still Life With Candlestick," Picasso's "Dove With Green Peas," Matisse's "Pastoral," Braque's "The Olive Tree Near Estaque," and Modigliani's "Woman With a Fan."

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