Pink Panther jewel thief ‘snared’ in Paris

A suspected member of the notorious Pink Panther gang of international jewel thieves has been arrested near Paris, police sources told AFP on Wednesday.

Pink Panther jewel thief 'snared' in Paris
File photo of a Chopard necklace. Photo:AFP

Nijan Drobnjak had been on the run after fleeing Germany, where he had been sentenced to a seven and a half year prison term for armed robbery and kidnapping.

He was captured by police on Tuesday and is expected to be swiftly extradited back to Germany, which has issued a European arrest warrant for him, police said.

The Pink Panthers are a gang who emerged from the conflict in the former Yugoslavia to become the most successful jewel thieves in the world.

According to Interpol, they have, since 1999, snatched jewels with a value in excess of €330 million in heists which are often executed with breathtaking speed and precision and frequently finish with the thieves making a clean getaway.

They were believed to have been behind two high profile robberies of jewellery at this year's Cannes Film Festival.

They gained their nickname with a raid on a London branch of Graff Diamonds in 2003, in which two of them posed as wealthy would-be customers, persuading staff to open doors for them before helping themselves to diamonds worth millions of dollars.

Although one of the robbers was overpowered at the scene and another one later arrested, only a fraction of the diamonds were recovered, one of them hidden in a pot of face cream.

That was reminiscent of a scene from the 1975 film "The Return of the Pink Panther" and resulted in a nickname that the gang themselves adopted, wearing pink shirts for a subsequent raid in Zurich.

The gang, which is believed to be based in Montenegro and largely made up of thieves from all over the former Yugoslavia, was also responsible for the 2004 theft in Tokyo of the Comtesse de Vendome, a 116-diamond necklace.

In that raid, staff had tear gas sprayed in their eyes and the thieves got away on bicycles.

In Dubai in 2007, members of the gang drove stolen cars through the doors of a shopping mall and snatched their loot in full view of terrified staff and shoppers before escaping in a waiting getaway car.

Despite these spectacular successes, Interpol believes the gang has been weakened in recent years by the arrest of a number of its leading members.

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Cannes Film Festival postponed to July due to Covid

The Cannes Film Festival has been rescheduled for July 6th to 17th - postponed by around two months due to the ongoing virus crisis, organisers said on Wednesday.

Cannes Film Festival postponed to July due to Covid
The 2018 Palme d'Or winner Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-Eda posing for the cameras at the Cannes Film Festival, is an annual highlight for movie lovers in France. Photo: AFP

“As announced last autumn, the Festival de Cannes reserved the right to change its dates depending on how the global health situation developed,” they said in a statement.

“Initially scheduled from 11th to 22nd May 2021, the Festival will therefore now take place from Tuesday 6th to Saturday 17th July 2021.”

The festival was cancelled last year, while rival European events in Berlin and Venice went ahead under strict health restrictions.

The Berlin Film Festival, which usually kicks off in February, said last month it would run this year's edition in two stages, an online offering for industry professionals in March and a public event in June.

France has closed all cinemas, theatres and show rooms alongside cafés, bars and restaurants as part of its Covid-19 health measures and the government has pushed back their reopening date until further notice due to rising levels of viral spread across the country.

The Cannes festival normally attracts some 45,000 people with official accreditations, of whom around 4,500 are journalists.

It had only been cancelled once before, due to the outbreak of war in 1939.

Its Film Market, held alongside the main competition, is the industry's biggest marketplace for producers, distributors, buyers and programmers.

Last year, the festival still made an official selection of 56 films – including the latest offerings from Wes Anderson, Francois Ozon and Steve McQueen – allowing them to use the “Cannes official selection” label.