Thief Gets Away With Estimated $50 Million in Jewelry at a French Riviera Hotel

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A jewel thief brandishing a gun entered an exclusive hotel along the French Riviera on Sunday morning, eluded security guards and well-heeled guests, and left with a glittering haul worth perhaps $50 million, according to the regional state prosecutor's office.

The theft occurred at the Carlton InterContinental Hotel along the Promenade de la Croisette in Cannes, a Mediterranean playground for the word's rich and famous.

It comes just days after the Swiss police announced that a member of the Pink Panther gang of jewel thieves had escaped from a prison in Switzerland. The gang, which has ties to the Balkans, is said to have hit hundreds of high-end boutiques all over the globe, making off with hundreds of millions of dollars in jewelry.

The theft had all the hallmarks of a Hollywood movie, including the set, the Carlton, where Alfred Hitchcock filmed "To Catch a Thief," the 1955 movie about a jewel thief prowling the French Riviera, starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. Reached by telephone, hotel officials would not comment.

Several news agencies, citing unnamed officials, estimated the value of the stolen goods at more than $50 million, but the officials cautioned that the estimate was preliminary.

Details of the theft were slow to emerge on Sunday. The police in Cannes and the nearby city of Nice, the regional hub, said by telephone that they had no information about the case. No suspects have been named.

News agencies said the stolen jewels were part of an exhibition put on by the Leviev diamond house. Calls made to Leviev were not answered on Sunday.

Around 11:30, a man wearing a cap, and with a scarf or bandanna over his face, entered the hotel carrying what appeared to be an automatic pistol, the office of the regional state prosecutor in Grasse told Agence France-Presse. He entered the exhibition while several people, including security guards, were there.

"Everything happened very quickly and without violence," the prosecutor's office said, according to A.F.P., which said the man made off with several bags full of jewels and watches.

The prosecutor's office said $50 million was "a provisional estimate" of the jewels' value, but might not be "trustworthy," Agence France-Presse reported. An inventory was under way Sunday, the office said.

Thieves have plied a lucrative trade in Cannes this year. In May alone, several million dollars' worth of jewelry was reported stolen in two separate robberies at luxury hotels during the Cannes Film Festival, which typically attracts a wealthy and bejeweled crowd.

In one episode, thieves stole a necklace by the Swiss jeweler De Grisogono reportedly worth $2.5 million. A week earlier, about $1 million in jewelry was taken from the room of an employee of Chopard, the Swiss jewelers.  

Other thefts elsewhere have been far more dramatic. In February, thieves dressed as police officers and armed with automatic weapons surrounded a plane packed with diamonds that was parked on the tarmac at the Brussels airport. In a matter of minutes, they were able to make off with tens millions of dollars in stones. The diamonds were later recovered and several arrests were made.

Perhaps the costliest theft in recent memory occurred in France in 2008. In a crime called the robbery of the century by French news media, a pack of thieves, some posing as women and at least one with a hand grenade, robbed the Harry Winston jewelry store in Paris of roughly $110 million worth of diamonds, rings and watches.

More than two years later, some of the diamonds were found in a drainpipe north of Paris.

Scott Sayare contributed reporting from Paris.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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