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Art Thief Gets Nearly 17 Years

September 24, 1999 GMT

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) _ A shotgun-wielding thief who stole an oil painting by French master James Tissot by cutting it crudely from its frame and then vanishing into traffic on a motorbike was sentenced Friday to nearly 17 years in jail.

The French Impressionist painting ``Still on Top,″ worth $1.04 million, was stolen from the city’s main gallery in August 1998 by 48-year-old Anthony Sannd, also known as Ricardo Genovese.

Sannd was arrested eight days later after making demands for $260,000 from the Auckland Art Gallery.

Police tracked the calls and found the Tissot painting, badly damaged and with pieces missing, stashed under a bed in a house which Sannd had rented south of the city.

The painting, one of the most important in the gallery’s collection, remains damaged, with repair and restoration work yet to begin.

Gallery director Chris Sains said today the painting ``can never be fully restored to its former glory.″

Sannd was also jailed on charges connected to the armed robberies of a security van and a bank branch, two other charges of theft and three firearms charges. His sentence on all charges was 16 years and nine months.