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Cannes jewellery heist was worth €103 million

AFP/The Local · 29 Jul 2013, 16:45

Published: 29 Jul 2013 16:45 GMT+02:00

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An armed man who burst into a hotel in the French Riviera resort of Cannes stole jewels worth around €103 million ($136 million), prosecutors said on Monday, in one of
the world's biggest jewellery thefts.

Authorities had initially estimated the heist -- which took place on Sunday in broad daylight - was worth around €40 million.

The theft is roughly as big as the world's largest ever haul of jewellery valued at around 100 millions euros, which took place in Belgium in 2003.

It is also France's biggest diamond heist, eclipsing a 2008 incident when three men stole almost every piece on display at a jewellery exhibition in Paris, a theft valued at 85 million euros.The daring heist took place in broad daylight on the promenade often frequented by the rich and famous.

The hold-up, at the Carlton Hotel on the promenade in Cannes, famous for its annual film festival, would be the second largest ever in France if the value of the jewels is confirmed.

A lone gunman, wearing a baseball cap with his face hidden by a "bandana or scarf", entered the hotel through a front entrance undisturbed as security guards patrolled the premises, according to the prosecutor's office.

"It all happened very quickly and without any violence," it said, adding that the robber, armed with a semi-automatic pistol, escaped with a briefcase containing jewels and watches encrusted with diamonds.

Police said they had not been alerted that the exhibition was taking place, which while not a legal requirement would ordinarily be standard procedure for
luxury hotels such as the Carlton.

The theft has caused anger among employees and unions, who denounced lax security at the Carlton.

The exhibition was held in a wing of the hotel with direct access to the street and police said they had not been alerted that it was taking place.

While not a legal requirement, alerting the police would ordinarily be standard procedure for luxury hotels such as the Carlton.

Prosecutors said the robber entered the exhibition room through a French window that opened onto a terrace, which itself looks onto the popular Croisette avenue in Cannes.

The CGT union said Monday that the Carlton had already been the victim of a jewellery heist in 1994, when a security guard was seriously wounded by a bullet.

The management at the Carlton Hotel declined to comment when contacted by AFP, saying they had "instructions not to say anything."

Huge posters of the diamonds with images of pink flowers had been affixed to the walls to advertise the jewels' presence to the public.

On its website, Leviev, which opened its first jewellery store in London on Old Bond Street in 2006, claims to have access to stones "among the most outstanding in the world."The Carlton was the location for Alfred Hitchcock's 1955 Oscar-winning thriller "To Catch A Thief", starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly.

Cannes has fallen prey to thieves several times recently, notably during this year's film festival, which attracts a glittering array of celebrities from the movie world.

In a pre-dawn heist at a hotel during the festival in May, thieves stole jewellery worth $1.4 million due to be loaned to movie stars.

That robbery took place in the hotel room of an American employee of Swiss jeweller Chopard while she was out for the evening, police said.

In a scene straight from a Hollywood film, a strongbox containing jewels was ripped out of the wardrobe and carried off, they said.

In a second theft during the festival, robbers made off with a diamond necklace with an estimated value of $1.9 million.

AFP/The Local (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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