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Art Heist on the Riviera

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The Musee des Beaux Arts, Nice, France. August 5, 2007.

“Merde enfants!” mutters Noel Dumarais-Pierre, lighting another cigarette as he waits in a blue Peugeot van outside the museum. “ Bloody children! If it weren’t for the little bastards we’d be back in Marseilles by now, drinking pastis and celebrating. “

It’s Sunday lunchtime on the French Riviera. In the bistros of the Old Town, tourists eat slices of onion pizza, known locally as la pissaldere; and sip ice-cold beer as the heat of a Provencal summer hammers on the roofs. On the palm-lined Promenade des Anglais, lovers stroll hand-in-hand as a speedboat carves a white V across The Bay of Angels.

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