PARIS Ė Pablo Picassoís electrician and his wife were sentenced to two years prison on Tuesday for hoarding artworks by the Spanish artist worth up to $110 million.
This was the third time in two years that Pierre Le Guennec and his wife Danielle were found guilty.
The pair had already been handed a two year suspended sentence in 2015 and in March 2018 the couple appealed to the Supreme Court, which annulled the penalty and forced a repetition of the trial.
On Tuesday, magistrates at a Lyon Court of Appeal sentenced the couple for hoarding 271 artworks in total, including nine cubist collages and lithographs painted between 1900 and 1930, as well as a series of sketchbooks of drawings spanning the artistís career.
The existence of the works came to light in 2010, after being hidden for 40 years in a garage, when Le Guennec visited a relative of the painter to authenticate the works.
It was the painterís son and manager of the Picasso Administration, Claude, who learned about the existence of the set of works and filed a complaint in 2010 as he suspected they had been stolen.
Le Guennec, now 80 years old, and his wife, 76, reiterated their version of events whereby the couple alleged that Picassoís widow Jacqueline gave them the works as a token of appreciation for their loyalty.
Although the coupleís testimony underwent several modifications, they said that when the artist died, his widow gave Danielle some bags containing artworks, possibly to hide them from his estate and the executor of the will.
The electricianís wife added that Jacqueline subsequently asked her to return the bags but told her to keep one of them.
It contained a vast collection of priceless pieces.
As proof of their goodwill, the Le Guennecs told magistrates that they did not sell any paintings for four decades and that when they intended to do so, they went to the painterís family.
But the heirs do not believe the coupleís version.
They argued that Picasso did not usually give away free works, but dedicated books in which he sometimes included one of his drawings and that these were always signed.
The collection was in an excellent state of conservation and if, as the couple argued, they were stored in a garbage bag in a garage in southern France for 40 years, one would have expected the artworks to have deteriorated.
The family claimed that the couple lied in the first court hearing when they said that the works had been given to them by Picasso himself, before amending their story on appeal to say that the artistís widow had given them the bag.
In addition, they were surprised at their good state of preservation even though, as the couple said, they had remained in a garage hidden in a plastic bag for 40 years.
The elders only achieved a judicial victory, before the Supreme Court, which ordered the trial to be repeated considering that the fraudulent origin of the works had not been proven.
In 2015, the couple was convicted in the first instance, not for theft, since that crime had already expired, but for handling stolen goods.
The penalty was upheld on appeal the following year but overturned by the Supreme Court in 2018.