'Brutal' art robber sentenced

Dangerous career criminal Anthony Sannd, who butchered a priceless "treasure" when he robbed the Auckland Art Gallery, was jailed yesterday for 16 years and nine months.

Even with good behaviour, the 48-year-old Sannd will be in his 60s before he is considered for parole.

Sannd, who also used the name Ricardo Genovese (the name of one of the most notorious Mafia families), was found guilty last month of robbing the gallery at gunpoint on August 9 last year and unceremoniously jemmying the $6 million Tissot masterpiece Still On Top from its frame.

After a four-week trial, the jury in the High Court at Auckland also convicted him of robbing the Waiuku branch of the ASB on February 13 last year and an Armourguard security van at a Bombay service station three weeks earlier, as well as the theft of two high-powered motorcycles and possession of three firearms.

Sannd has a long list of previous convictions, including the robbery of an Armourguard van in Birkenhead in 1984 when $300,000 was taken - at the time the biggest in New Zealand history.

In 1993, he was jailed for the robbery of a bank in Kerikeri.

An earlier sentencing judge described him as a "hardened criminal resolved to live outside the law" and a menace to society.

Yesterday, Justice Potter told Sannd: "Unfortunately, you have proved that nothing has changed." At the age of 48 he was a clever and dangerous career criminal.

The judge said that on his release from jail in June 1996 Sannd had already been involved in meticulously planning and researching the three armed robberies that took place in 1998.

Thinking he had got away with the Waiuku and Bombay robberies, Sannd then put into action his most ambitious scheme - the art gallery robbery.

A security officer was heavily butted to the ground with a shotgun and a warning shot was fired outside to frighten off a valiant pursuer. Justice Potter said Sannd smashed the glass of the Tissot and brutally jemmied the painting from its frame, causing irreparable harm.

The painting, which she said was valued at up to $6 million, was costing $125,000 to restore but had been considerably devalued by the attack. It was a national and international treasure which could not be replaced.

Sannd had sought a $500,000 ransom for the return of the artwork but, perhaps predictably, said the judge, he was unsuccessful. Papers found at Sannd's address showed he expected to receive more than $2 million for the painting.

The Tissot was found under his bed the same day the ransom note arrived at the offices of the Auckland District Law Society.

Also found in Sannd's bedroom were a shotgun which matched a cartridge left at the art gallery, a typewriter on which experts said the ransom note was typed, and the false registration plates which witnesses had seen on the motorcycles during the robberies..

It was, said the Crown, "well nigh overwhelming evidence."

Justice Potter said Sannd was a man of considerable intelligence, ability and persuasion but had used his talents to carry out grave crimes against society.

He had exhibited "total contempt" for the law and had shown no remorse or contrition. In fact, she said, he defended himself at trial and appeared to derive satisfaction, not to say pleasure, from rehearing his criminal offending through the evidence.

Christopher Saines, the art gallery director, said in a victim impact statement that the attack on the artwork was as disturbing as the violence to his colleagues.

Charles Cato, appearing for the Crown with Mark Treleaven, said the art gallery robbery was meant to be Sannd's "big hit," his finale of offending of that year.

It might never be known what the intended destination of the painting was or if the ransom demand was a last-ditch attempt to salvage a bungled job, because the painting was so badly damaged.

Police had earlier speculated that the painting was stolen to order for a private collector in Asia, but the buyer pulled out because of the extensive damage.

Mr Cato said the court could not tolerate offences directed at the country's cultural treasures.

Sannd had nothing to say in mitigation. He was given 13 years and nine months for the art gallery robbery and concurrent 12-year terms for the ASB and Armourguard robberies.

Sentences of three years were imposed for the motorcycle thefts which the judge said were to be served concurrently with two years handed down for the firearms offences.

However, the judge made the three-year term cumulative on the 13 years nine months, making a total of 16 years and nine months.

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