29 Oct 2015

Art thief sentenced over luxury bike grab

5:08 pm on 29 October 2015

The man who stole a two million dollar French painting at gunpoint in 1998 has been sentenced for stealing a rare motorbike, described as a mechanical piece of art.

Ricardo Romanov stood in the dock of the Auckland District Court and hid his head behind paper and his jacket, before turning away from Judge Charles Blackie as he was sentenced to seven years in prison.


Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Romanov had only just been released from prison after stealing a James Tissot painting from the Auckland Art Gallery.

Judge Charles Blackie said Romanov used computers to track down owners of a limited edition Ducati Desmosedici and then traced them to a rural address north of Auckland.

He had also drew up plans of how to re-paint and modify the rare $130,000 bike once he got it.

On a night in 2013, Romanov and another man drove out to a house, disarmed a security gate and got into a garage where they found the bike.

But Romanov left behind a balaclava. Police were able to test the garment for DNA and link the crime back to Romanov.

Keys to the bike were also later found at his home, but the bike itself was never recovered.

Romanov's partner in crime has already been sentenced to 250 hours of community work.

The Crown prosecutor Bruce Northwood asked the judge to sentence Romanov to the maximum 10 years.

Mr Northwood compared the planning in the case to the theft of the war medals from the Waiouru museum and said the public had to be protected from Romanov, who has a criminal history that goes back to the 1970s.

A victim impact statement from the owner of the Ducati said his children couldn't sleep at night and they've had to move from their home.

Romanov's lawyer Quentin Duff argued for a sentence comparable to Romanov's co-offender, and called it a common burglary.

Judge Blackie disagreed. He used a sporting metaphor and said if Romanov was the captain of the football team, then his co-offender was just the ball boy.

During sentencing, the judge had to tell Romanov to remove paper, from his face.

Romoanov also used his jacket to shield his face from view.

Judge Blackie said he found that disrespectful and reminded the career criminal he was in a public place.

The judge told Romanov to remove his jacket and his hands from his face.

Romonov did as he was told but turned away and faced the cell door as Judge Blackie sentenced him for stealing the rare bike, which he described as a mechanical work of art

Romanov has also stolen a conventional piece of art. In 1998 he stole a painting by James Tissot from the Auckland Art Gallery at gunpoint.

He got away on a high-powered motorbike and fired a warning shot at a passer-by.

When police caught up with him, they found the artwork torn and rolled up under his bed.

Romanov has also gone by several names, including Ricardo Sands.

In 1984 he was involved in the largest aggravated robbery of its time. He was one of three men who held up an armoured guard security van at the Birkenhead Foodtown.