Banksy Paris theft suspect claims links to artist

A man suspected of having stolen a Banksy artwork from a street sign in Paris has claimed that he was working on the instructions of the anonymous artist himself.

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The theft hit headlines in September 2018 when two men were filmed cutting out a Banksy artwork - showing a rat holding a sharp blade - from a metal street sign near the Pompidou Centre in Paris.

The artwork had been protected by a plastic cover, and when it disappeared, the Pompidou Centre lodged a complaint for the “theft and damage in a relevant space in its perimeter”.

(Photo: Mark 1333 / YouTube / Screenshot / BBC News)

The theft was filmed by local residents, who were woken up by the noise. At least two men were present, and they appeared to make no attempt to hide their actions, using a large truck with flashing lights to access the piece. They appeared to be attempting to “disguise” themselves as council workmen.

One suspect, who has been questioned for alleged “theft of a cultural asset in the public domain”, remains in police custody. The work has still not been found, although several other Banksy pieces were discovered during a police search at the suspect’s home.

The suspect was heard before the magistrate on Friday March 6, and has claimed to have been working for Banksy himself.

His lawyer, Me Antoine Vey, said that there were “several elements that back up this theory”.

These include “objectively established connections” with the entourage of the famously-anonymous street artist, and the fact that several other Banksy works were found at the suspect’s home, “which were neither bought nor stolen”, but “given to him”, Me Vey said.

Yet, Banksy himself has denied any links to the suspect.

A message sent to newspaper Le Parisien by the artist’s press officer said: “The artist Banksy categorically denies any involvement at all in the theft of his Parisian works.”

The rat artwork appeared in June 2018, along with several other rat-themed stencil pieces by the artist across Paris.

On his Instagram page, Banksy claimed to be the creator of at least eight of the works.

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