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'Swiss Banksy' settles 40-year dispute with Zurich

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By Emma Beswick
'Swiss Banksy' settles 40-year dispute with Zurich

After nearly a 40-year-long legal battle with the city of Zurich, Swiss graffiti artist Harald Naegeli gave the city one of his paintings as a way of settling the charges against him. 

The "sprayer of Zurich", now an internationally respected pioneer of street art, became infamous in the late 1970s, for his stick-figure designs, painted under the cover of darkness, dividing citizens as to whether they were graffiti or art.

Zurich city authorities were not in favour of his art at the time and offered a 3,000-franc reward (€2,609) for anyone with information about the artist’s identity.

He was arrested back in 1979 when he returned to the scene of one of his works after forgetting his glasses, fleeing to Germany during the resulting trial.

Lasting nearly 40 years, the case against Naegeli involved an international arrest warrant and saw fellow artists come out and publically support him.

The "Swiss Banksy" even served a 9-month prison sentence in 1984 after being deported from Germany to Switzerland.

The latest charges against Naegeli were for 25 murals between 2012 and 2013, which the city's waste disposal service claimed resulted in cleaning costs of 9,000 francs (€7,841).

Zurich city announced Tuesday in an official statement on its website that "the claim for damages against Harald Naegeli has been repaid." 

"Harald Naegeli has handed the city of Zurich one of his pictures instead of a sum of money," it read, adding that "the proceedings for damage to property are obsolete."

It said that Naegeli himself contacted City Councillor Filippo Leutenegger and they had reached a solution "after several discussions".

Leutenegger was photographed receiving the picture Tuesday morning. 

"I am glad that we have found an unbureaucratic solution," he said.

Zurich's city council told Euronews it would hang the valuable Naegeli painting in the municipal art collection.