The man who stole 271 Picassos? (ctd.)

March 21 2015

Image of The man who stole 271 Picassos? (ctd.)

Picture: WSJ

Pierre Le Guennec, Picasso's former handyman who was on trial for possessing 271 'stolen' works by the artist, has been found guilty. For earlier AHN on this unfortunate case, see here

Le Guennec and his wife have been sentenced to two years in jail, but the term has been suspended, meaning they won't be locked up. The works must be returned to the Picasso estate.

This is an extraordinary ruling. No evidence was presented in court to show that the works were stolen, by whom and when. The Picasso estate merely said 'Picasso never gave away his art'. Of course, he did - but in any case, M. Le Guennec's case was that Picasso's wife gave him the works. 

The Wall Street Journal reports the judge's logic:

The court in Grasse found that Mr. and Ms. Le Guennec weren’t able to present any documentation from the painter or his wife that proves the works were effectively donated to them. The court found that the couple never tried to obtain any such proof and never spoke to anyone about their possession—not even to their own children—and said these facts establish that the works were “kept clandestinely.”

The court also said the couple’s testimonies during the trial diverged widely and lacked credibility.

“The violation concerns goods of an extreme value,” Judge Jean-Christophe Bruyere said in his ruling. “The Le Guennec couple didn’t make a profit but they didn’t provide any convincing explanation as to how and why they kept the art pieces for such a long time.”

If this is French justice, then I'm a banana. The judge seems not to have noticed that, at the time M. Le Guennec was given the works, they were not of 'extreme value'. Nor did the court care that M. Le Guennec voluntarily started this whole process, by taking the works to the Picasso estate - hardly the actions of a criminal. So if you happen to live in France, and have works of art that you (a) lost the receipts for (b) don't tell the world and its wife about - ie, keep them 'clandestinely', and (c) keep 'for such a long time', then watch out - you may be found guilty of possessing stolen works too. Even if there was no proof they were stolen!

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