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Austrian art thief sentenced to four years

September 08, 2006|From the Associated Press

VIENNA — A thief who carried out Austria's most spectacular art heist three years ago of a $65-million Renaissance figurine was sentenced Thursday to four years in prison.

Robert Mang, an alarm systems expert who said he stole the prized work from Vienna's Art History Museum as a prank and described the caper as "child's play," had faced up to 10 years' imprisonment.

The case triggered months of heated debate over whether the Austrian capital's famed museums had proper security.

Mang, 50, was convicted of the theft but acquitted on a separate charge of attempted extortion after the court decided there was insufficient evidence to prove he allegedly threatened to destroy the prized work unless up to $13 million in ransom was paid.

Police recovered the 16th century gold-plated "Saliera," or salt cellar, by Florentine master Benvenuto Cellini in January, a day after Mang turned himself in and confessed following the release of photos identifying him as the suspect. Mang has been jailed since his arrest.

Investigators said Mang had led them to the artwork, which was buried in a wooden case in a forest outside the town of Zwettl, about 55 miles north of Vienna. Museum officials have said the object was slightly damaged but was being restored.

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