A lottery millionaire with a love of street art was among eight men found guilty yesterday of stealing a Banksy mural paying tribute to the victims of the Bataclan terrorist attack in Paris.
anksy, the British street artist, painted his “sad girl” stencil on the metal door of the Bataclan in memory of the 90 people killed there on November 13, 2015, as part of a string of Islamist attacks on bars, restaurants, and the Stade de France football stadium.
A white van with concealed number plates was seen stopping on January 26, 2019, in an alleyway running alongside the central Paris music venue.
Many concertgoers fled through the same alley when the Bataclan became the focal point of France’s worst attacks since the World War II in which 130 people died in all.
On the morning of the theft, three masked men climbed out of the van, cut the hinges of the door with angle grinders and left within 10 minutes, in what a judge called a “meticulously prepared” heist.
Investigators pieced together the door’s route from France to Italy, where it was found in June 2020, on a farm in Sant’Omero.
During the trial, prosecutors accused Mehdi Meftah (41) of being the “mastermind”.
Mr Meftah won €5.5m on the national lottery and launched a streetwear brand called BL1.D, which sells T-shirts with 18-carat gold ingots attached for €545 a piece
One of the three men who admitted carrying out the theft had mentioned that the lottery winner had “ordered” the theft for a potential sale in America.
Mr Meftah hid the door in his property in the Var region of southern France on the day of the theft.
He has also owned a Banksy screen print. Asked about this, he said: “I was raised in the street and street art became a fashionable thing. We were brought up with it.” After winning the lottery, he said: “I saw he was in fashion, his message was interesting. I had the means to buy myself a Banksy.”
But he added that he went off the artist because of his “double discourse”.
Mr Meftah told the court that he had no idea about the theft of the mural – valued at up to €1m – until two of the thieves turned up at his door with the artwork and he told them: “What do you want me to do with it?”
Unwilling to rat on his “friend”, he said he agreed to keep the door until they found a way of getting rid of it.
His cousin and a friend drove it to a hotel in Tortoreto in the Abruzzo region of Italy.
Yesterday, Meftah was handed a three-year sentence for handling stolen goods after judges found the main mastermind allegation unproven.
His sentence will be served wearing electronic tracking bracelets rather than in jail. Three men who admitted to the theft were given prison sentences, one of four years and two of three. They too will serve the sentence with an electronic bracelet.
Three men involved in transporting the door were each jailed for 10 months, while a 58-year-old Italian man, received a six-month suspended sentence.
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