05/02/2012 05:16 EDT | Updated 07/02/2012 05:12 EDT

Master Thief Released From Prison


A man described by police as one of Canada's most sophisticated criminal masterminds has been formally released from prison — but with some conditions on his freedom.

Gerald Blanchard was formally released in British Columbia April 23, according to Parole Board of Canada documents obtained by CBC News under an access to information request.

Blanchard, from Manitoba, once was the linchpin behind an international fraud and theft ring that stole millions from banks and financial institutions.

Facing more than 40 charges when police caught up with him in 2007, he pleaded guilty to 16 of those charges in a Winnipeg court and handed six years in prison.

The case grabbed international headlines as it involved global heists, Interpol warrants, and unconfirmed links to Kurdish rebels. Several capers were carried out in collaboration with a mysterious figure known as "The Boss." Blanchard lived a jet-set lifestyle under several assumed identities, using elaborate disguises and high-tech surveillance equipment to empty cash machines from banks around the world.

In one audacious theft, he posed as a tourist in a Vienna castle before swiping the priceless Star of the Empress Sisi from an encased display — leaving a gift-shop replica in its place.

The 19th-century diamond-and-pearl heirloom was later found stashed at the home of one of Blanchard's relatives in Winnipeg.

Blanchard had his parole revoked in 2010 after being involved in "possible fraudulent activities" according to his parole report. The parole board again granted Blanchard day parole last October and continued day parole up to April 23, his statutory release date. To maintain parole, Blanchard cannot own a computer or more than one mobile phone.

The board said it does not consider Blanchard an undue threat to re-offend.

Blanchard said at that time he was considering a new career as a security consultant.