The magistrate’s court found the 39-year-old man, originally from Montenegro, guilty of robbery, attempted robbery and theft aggravated by the involvement of an organized criminal band for holdups committed between 2003 and 2012.
With armed police inside and outside the courtroom and a helicopter circling overhead during the proceedings, the high-profile case took place under tight security.
The defendant was implicated for his role in a spectacular heist of the Chatila boutique on Geneva’s upscale Rue de Rhône on August 17th 2009 when 2.6 million francs’ worth of jewellery was stolen.
According to the evidence, he was with three other accomplices, two of whom have yet to be identified.
The jewels, later sold, were never recovered.
The Montenegro man said his take from the theft amounted to 40,000 francs, 20 Minutes reported.
He was also implicated in the robbery of a boutique in Lucerne where 78 watches worth 1.3 million francs were taken in March 2012, when he was arrested shortly afterward.
Earlier, he was involved in two aborted robberies in Zurich.
The defendant admitted to playing a role in the robberies but he refused to disclose the names of his accomplices
He told the court he regretted his “stupidities” and said all he wanted to do was to hold his one-year-old son in his arms, the Tribune de Genève reported.
The boy is living with his mother in Montenegro, the newspaper said.
Media reports have always linked the Geneva and Lucerne robberies the man was involved with to the Pink Panthers gang, who according to Interpol have snatched jewels with a total value of more than €330 million.
The gang’s alleged robberies were frequently executed with breathtaking speed and precision.
The group was reportedly created out of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia.
Two other members of the gang made a sensational escape with three other inmates from a prison near Lausanne in May using weapons and tools passed to them by accomplices on the outside.
Two inmates were quickly rounded up.
One of the Pink Panthers’ members, a 47-year-old man, born in Montenegro but with French and Macedonian citizenships, was caught last month by French police near his home near Avignon.
Authorities in France were unable to extradite him to Switzerland because laws protect French citizens from being extradited to other countries.
A 45-year-old Serb, who escaped from the Swiss prison, also believed to be a Pink Panther, is among those remaining at large.
The lawyer for the 39-year-old man sentenced on Thursday, Nicola Meier, said he would be appealing the decision.
He protested against the display of security at the court, saying it “created a climate that did not respect the presumption of innocence and the serenity of arguments”.