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Canadian hi-tech gentleman jewel thief finally nabbed

But gets silver lining of plod-adoration

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A hi-tech gentleman jewel thief was sentenced yesterday in Canada, after an exchange of compliments with police in court. Detectives described Gerald Blanchard as "charming", "gifted" and one of the most technically-accomplished master criminals they'd ever seen. For his part, Blanchard thanked police for their diligence in investigating him.

"He's not of the same ilk as a lot of the criminals that we normally deal with... it's just a bit of a change for us," sighed Winnipeg police inspector Tom Legge. "Blanchard seemed to care very much about the people he was involved in."

The plods had clearly enjoyed crossing swords with the suave rogue, and seemed almost tearful at the prospect of doing without him.

"His ability to plan, his ability to surveil possible criminal targets, his knowledge of electronics... the way he carried out his business, the way he organized his own criminal organisation... the various offences and crimes that he was involved in, the diversity of them, is something that we'd never seen," added the lovestruck Inspector Legge.

Canadian plods originally got onto Blanchard's trail in 2004 after a "brazen" blag in which half a million Canuck bucks were snaffled from a bank the day before its grand opening. After a three-year manhunt dubbed "Project Kite", they finally managed to clap the bracelets on the daring master crook and his gang.

However, in court Blanchard also confessed to a worldwide criminal career which included links to a shadowy figure in London known only as "the Boss".

"The Boss", according to prosecutors, is known to Scotland Yard and probably the mastermind of an international ring, perhaps involved in funding of Kurdish militia groups in Northern Iraq.

Blanchard and henchmen of his were said to have travelled to Egypt, and - disguised as veiled women - trousered huge sums in a string of well-planned stings targeted at banks and finance houses.

The likeable Canadian scoundrel also managed to lift a famous diamond known as the "Sisi Star", once the property of the empress of Austria.

Considering his guilty pleas, the fact that he appeared in classic style never to have harmed a hair on anyone's head and his chummy relationship with the cops, the Winnipeg beak handed down a sentence which will see Blanchard a free man in six years. He must also repay CAN$0.5m to his various victims.

Had Blanchard not agreed guilty pleas to a selected 16 charges, he would have faced up to 54 different charges and a maximum sentence of 160 years.

His mother, according to Blanchard's brief, said that the master crim "was always very good at taking apart toys, and dismantling them effectively. And I think probably that curiosity in life has obviously served him to develop his skills."

It seems that various banks are already bidding for Blanchard's services once he gets out of jail.

Sadly, David Niven is no longer available to play Blanchard in the movie. CBC coverage here. ®

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