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They Say Picasso Gave Them Art. French High Court Says No

Sentence upheld for artist's ex-electrician and his wife over 271 pieces of hoarded art
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 20, 2019 7:42 AM CST
In this Feb.11, 2015, file photo, Pierre Le Guennec and his wife, Danielle, arrive at the Grasse criminal court in France to face charges of receiving stolen goods from Pablo Picasso.   (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau, File)
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(Newser) – For 40 years, the guy who once installed burglar alarms for Pablo Picasso kept hundreds of the artist's pieces in his garage, claiming Picasso had given them to him and his wife. Now, per AFP, a French high court has upheld a sentence of two-year suspended prison terms for Picasso's former electrician and his wife, Pierre and Danielle Le Guennec, after a legal battle with Picasso's heirs that has endured for almost a decade. The couple was convicted in 2015 for being in possession of stolen goods, a verdict that an appeals court agreed with in 2016. The Cour de Cassation, one of France's four courts of last resort, nixed that ruling but ordered a retrial, and on Tuesday, a third hammer came down on the pair. "It is a triumph of truth and marks the end of a cover-up," says Jean-Jacques Neuer, an attorney for Picasso son Claude Ruiz-Picasso.

In 2017, CBS News noted the Le Guennecs' stash included sketches, drawings, lithographs, paintings, and cubist collages, with a value later assessed to be up to $100 million. The news outlet also talked to Claude Picasso, who called the police on the Le Guennecs when they asked him in 2010 to authenticate the art they had in their possession. The Le Guennecs initially said that the famous artist had given them the box of art as payback for years of service, but when the case made its way to the appeals court, Pierre Le Guennec changed his story, saying Picasso's widow, Jacqueline, had given them the art to hide it from French authorities and her stepchildren; she killed herself in 1986. "If you see the Picasso estate and tell them these works fell from the sky ... there is little chance anyone will believe you," Neuer says. (Read more Pablo Picasso stories.)

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