Monaco 'Pink Panther' jewel thief gets 6 years jail

(iStock)
(iStock)

Monaco - An alleged member of the infamous "Pink Panther" gang of jewel thieves was jailed for six years on Tuesday for his part in holding up a Monaco jewellery shop in 2007.

Nicolai Ivanovic, 42, of Montenegro, had on Monday pleaded guilty in the Monaco court of participating in the armed robbery in a high-end shopping gallery, but told the court that he had acted alone.

The gang got away with 32 Audemars Piguet luxury watches, as well as the watch of a footballer who was caught up in the heist.

The total haul was estimated to be worth more than $500 000.

The thieves left in a stolen car that was found a month later not far from the principality in southeastern France.

'Not a gang'

Ivanovic and another man were arrested in Paris nearly two years later, in May 2009.

Ivanovic was tried without his presumed accomplice, Zoran Kostic, a compatriot who is in jail in France and considered a likely leader of the Pink Panther gang.

Ivanovic has already been sentenced to three other prison terms in France, where he will also served the time in the Monaco case.

Prosecutor Cyrielle Colle had asked for a seven-year jail term.

According to her, the Pink Panthers are not an organised gang with a head but "a community of men who know each other". She added that Ivanovic could be protecting some other guilty parties by suggesting that he was acting alone.

Movie reference

The Pink Panthers emerged from the conflict in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s to become the world's most successful jewel thieves.

They gained their nickname with a raid on a London branch of Graff Diamonds in 2003, in which two of them posed as wealthy would-be customers, persuading staff to open doors for them before helping themselves to diamonds worth millions.

Although one of the robbers was overpowered at the scene and another later arrested, only a fraction of the diamonds were recovered, one of them hidden in a pot of face cream.

That was reminiscent of a scene from the 1975 film "The Return of the Pink Panther" and resulted in a nickname that the gang members themselves adopted, wearing pink shirts for a subsequent raid in Zurich.

But Ivanovic claimed to have acted on his own account.

"I don't know the Pink Panthers, that doesn't exist," he told the court. "I don't have a boss," said the defendant.

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