Prosecutor seeks jail terms over Banksy work theft from Paris attack site

·2-min read

French prosecutors on Friday sought prison terms for eight men accused of stealing a Banksy artwork painted on the door of the Bataclan concert venue in Paris to honour 90 people killed in the 2015 terror attacks.

The seven French defendants and one Italian are suspected of removing the metal door from the building before dawn in January 2019 and transporting it to Italy.

It was decorated in 2018 with the stencil of a mournful young woman by the anonymous British street artist, giving it an estimated value of up to one million euros ($1.1 million).

Prosecutor Valerie Cadignan told the court Friday that the three men who had confessed to the theft should be given three or four years.

She said the suspected mastermind of the heist, Mehdi Meftah, should be sentenced to three years in prison with an additional three-year suspended sentence, and fined 150,000 euros.

The prosecutor recommended 18-month prison sentences or more for the others.

"The theft of the door sparked much emotion and great disruption of public order," the prosecutor told the court.

She acknowledged 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".

A white van with concealed numberplates was seen stopping on January 26 in an alleyway running alongside the Bataclan in central Paris.

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 in November 2015 killed 130 people at a string of sites across the capital.

Three of those on trial, in their 30s, confessed to the theft when they were arrested, though two said they were only carrying out the orders of Meftah who was not present when the door was removed.

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.

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.

Closing defence statements are expected for later Friday, and the court is to hand down its verdict on June 23.

Meanwhile the sole surviving member of the November 2015 attack team, Salah Abdeslam, is risking a life term in prison at an ongoing marathon trial, with the verdict to be pronounced on June 29.

burs/jh/sjw/ach

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting