Picasso’s former electrician and his wife are facing prison after losing their appeal against a conviction for possessing stolen goods.
Handing down the verdict on Friday (16 December), the judge at the Aix-en-Provence Court of Appeal described Pierre Le Guennec’s account of events as an “implausible and whimsical tale”.
Pierre Le Guennec worked as the artist’s electrician from 1970-1973. Together with his wife Danielle he was convicted of possessing stolen goods by a Lower Court in 2015 after the Picasso family accused the couple of hiding 271 of the artist’s works in their garage for almost 40 years.
During the 2015 trial, the Le Guennecs told the Court that Picasso and his wife Jacqueline gave them a collection of artworks shortly before the artist’s death as a reward for loyal service. They were found guilty, and received a two year suspended prison sentence.
On appeal in November this year the now retired handyman revised his version of events. Admitting he had lied during the original trial, Le Guennec told the Court of Appeal that Jacqueline asked him to hide 15 to 17 rubbish bags filled with Picasso’s artworks and drawings following the artist’s death.
Suggesting that Jacqueline had been having problems with her stepson, Claude Picasso, Le Guennec claimed that she was perhaps attempting to exclude the works from the artist’s inventory in order to thwart Claude’s inheritance.
Le Guennec has admitted to having little knowledge of art. Nonetheless, Claude’s lawyer, Jean-Jacques Neuer, accused him and his wife of manipulating the art market and warned the case was “just the tip of the iceberg”.
Officials estimate the value of the previously hidden collection to be between €60-100 million (£50-84 million).