The alleged ringleader of a thwarted attempt to steal a mural that the anonymous British street artist Banksy painted on a bombed-out building in Ukraine will face up to 12 years behind bars if convicted.
Ukraine’s interior ministry revealed the potential hefty prison sentence on its website Monday, reported Reuters.
Police charged a group of people in December with trying to remove the artwork depicting a woman in a gas mask from a wall in Hostomel, near Kyiv.
“The criminals tried to transport this graffiti with the help of wooden boards and polyethylene,” said the ministry, per Reuters. “Thanks to the concern of citizens, the police and other security forces managed to arrest the criminals.”
The mural was one of seven that Banksy painted in Ukraine last year in solidarity with its citizens amid Russia’s invasion, which began in February 2022.
The gas mask piece remains under police protection.
In December, Banksy announced the release of a limited-edition print to raise money for the Legacy of War Foundation, which is supporting citizens in Ukraine affected by the conflict.
The organization provided the artist, whose identity has never been officially confirmed, with an ambulance to use during his trip to the country. It also allowed him to escape an “angry babushka” who busted him painting on her building, he revealed on its website last month.
More than 1 million requests were made to register for the chance to buy one of the 50 prints, said the charity, which said it also received “3,500 hostile attacks from Russian IP addresses.”
Art by Banksy has in the past sold for millions of dollars.
The artist has previously encouraged people to leave street art in situ, though, a tough lesson that one man learned when he showed off a purported Banksy artwork on the “Antiques Roadshow” television program.
Last year, eight men were sentenced for stealing his tribute to the victims of the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris that he painted on a door of the Bataclan theater.
See all of Banksy’s Ukraine art here: