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Suspended prison sentence and €30,000 fine for Banksy theft in Paris

Banksy's rat with cutter behind the Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2019
Banksy's rat with cutter behind the Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2019 Copyright Kazuki Wakasugi / AP
Copyright Kazuki Wakasugi / AP
By David Mouriquand
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The accused admitted to the theft, which took place in 2019, but claimed that he had acted at the request of Banksy - without being able to prove it.


The Paris judicial court has sentenced a man for the theft of a work by renowned street artist Banksy.  

The artwork, depicting a rat with a box cutter, which was on a billboard near the Centre Pompidou, had been cut out with an angle grinder in September 2019.  

The defendant, 38-year-old artist and musician Mejdi R., who was absent from the trial according to French outlet Le Parisien, was sentenced on Wednesday 19 June to a two-year suspended prison sentence and a €30,000 fine.  

According to the defendant, Banksy himself had asked him to steal it. Apparently, the famous British street artist had wanted to prevent others from appropriating or profiting from his work. It was also a way of "denouncing the hypocrisy of the capitalist system, which says which work has value and which doesn't". 

However, he is unable to prove this (imaginary?) friendship.

Banky's artwork behind the Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2019
Banky's artwork behind the Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2019 Kazuki Wakasugi / AP

Mejdi R. will also have to compensate the Centre Pompidou. He will have to pay the museum €3,566 in material damages and €3,000 in moral prejudice, as well as €3,000 in legal fees, decided the Paris judicial court.  

The court did consider that the Centre Pompidou was not the owner, but only the custodian of the stolen "cultural property". 

The accused had admitted to the facts at the court hearing on 10 June. However, he explained that, in his opinion, the graffiti had "no value" in the street, and that he had therefore not stolen any "cultural property" but had merely "participated in the degradation of a metal plaque". 

The man also claimed to have acted with a "team" sent by Banksy himself, who then left for England with the work.  

This is not the first time that French justice has dealt with the theft of a Banksy artwork.  

In June 2022, eight men were given suspended sentences of six months to two years in prison in Paris for stealing or transporting to Italy a door from the Bataclan decorated with a Banksy, in tribute to the victims of the 13 November 2015 attacks. 

Additional sources • AFP, Le Parisien

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