Security man who stole artwork from All Hallows gets suspended sentence

Petr Balint (41) took prayer books and sold valuable prints at Sotheby’s

 All Hallows College. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

All Hallows College. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

A night security man at All Hallows College who stole artwork and sold it through Sotheby’s auction house has been given a suspended sentence.

Petr Balint (41), of Glen Ellan Drive, Swords, Co Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to theft of 33 art prints and an incunabula – a book printed before 1501 – from All Hallows College, Drumcondra, on dates between January 2013 and June 2014.

Balint further pleaded guilty to theft of four prayer books and six other books.

Judge Martin Nolan said Balint had been working alone and “wandering aimlessly” through the building when he succumbed to temptation and took these items. He said Balint had received about €20,000 for some of the stolen items and suspicion fell upon him when he replaced some of the stolen work.

The judge noted that theft from employers was “well trodden ground” and that the Court of Appeal has said a four-year sentence with the final two years suspended was appropriate for the theft of €250,000.

He said this case did not approach that and that a custodial sentence was not appropriate by reason of the amount involved. He imposed a 2½-year sentence which he suspended in full.

Inventory

Detective Garda James Woods told the court that All Hallows, a Catholic educational institution founded in 1842, had begun to wind down in May 2014 and prepare for sale. He said Balint was employed by a security company and worked nights, as well as occasional weekends. During an inventory process it became apparent some items were missing. Gardaí were contacted and investigation begun.

The investigation discovered that the incunabula, which was two volumes bound into one, and the prints had been put up for auction via Sotheby’s by Balint. He told the auction house they belonged to his mother. Some of the prints had sold for a total of £22,148 (€25,845).

The incunabula was put up for auction valued at £4,000-£6,000. It did not sell and was returned to Balint. He then returned it to All Hallows in a plastic bag handing it to staff and claiming he had found it.

Sotheby’s were able to purchase the prints back from the buyers when alerted by gardaí.

A search of Balint’s house was carried out and gardaí recovered four Breviarium Romanum prayer books. They also found six other books: The History of Co Dublin Vol I to VI”; Persecutions of Irish Catholics; The Capuchin Annual, 1969 and 1967; St Ceclia’s hymn book and Ancient Egypt. The court heard the items recovered in the house were not valuable.

Luigi Rea, defending, said Balint had taken religious art which was currently “not very fashionable”. He said the married father of one had used the money for housekeeping and that his client should not have done what he did and submitted Balint was now in honest work.