Three men have been arrested in Paris connection with a stolen Banksy art work. One man has been charged.

The art work was one of Banksy’s most recognisable motifs: a stencilled rat, this one with its mouth covered by a handkerchief, and its hands wielding a box cutter. It had been created on the back of a road sign outside the Centre Pompidou in June 2018. It vanished overnight in September 2019 and hasn’t been seen since.

The work was created to mark 50 years since the 1968 protest year when there were demonstrations against the then president Charles De Gaulle. This year also marked the time and place Banksy hailed on Instagram as “the birthplace of modern stencil art”. When the Street Artist Blek Le Rat, “the father of graffiti”, started stencilling his motifs (rats) over the city of Paris.

The Centre Pompidou, one of Paris’s finest museums, filed a complaint for destruction of property. Witnesses claim they saw two men arrive with a forklift truck, only to painstakingly cut the stencil out of the road sign – leaving a large, Banksy-shaped hole. They were caught on camera by residents who were woken up by the commotion.

One man has since been charged with “stealing a cultural asset”. Although two other works of art by believed to be by Banksy were recovered, the stencil from the Pompidou is still at large.

Banksy’s tribute to the victim’s of the Bataclan terrorist attack. Courtesy: Skynews

The first work recovered is believed to have been stolen seven months prior, and was Banksy’s homage to the victims of the Bataclan terrorist attack in 2015. The other, apparently an anti-capitalist statement, is of two businessmen offering a dog a bone having just sawed an animals leg off.

Those investigating are trying to establish whether the works retrieved are Banksy originals or copies.