Hotel security questioned after €103m Cannes heist

Questions are being asked about security at the Carlton hotel in the Riviera resort of Cannes after a lone thief was able to pull off the biggest jewellery robbery in France's history. Hotel chiefs have denied any member of staff was implicated.

Hotel security questioned after €103m Cannes heist
Security under scrutiny: The Carlton Hotel where €103 million worth of jewels was stolen on Sunday.

Security at the luxury Carlton hotel in the French Riviera town of Cannes is under the spotlight in an investigation into a jewel heist at the weekend worth €103 million ($136 million), police sources said on Tuesday.

"At the very least, the managers were a little careless," said a police source, adding that the security system in place at the Carlton – a hotel popular with film stars – was "a bit out of date".

Police said they had not been alerted that the "Extraordinary Diamonds" exhibition, put on by a group owned by Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev, was taking place.

The exhibit was held in a wing of the hotel with direct access to the street.

According to a source close to the case, the jewellery house Leviev was using its own security guards for the exhibition.

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

"For three years now, the Carlton has not informed us when it puts on this kind of event," said the police source.

Hotel management used to oversee security but in recent months the task had fallen to a single manager who was previously responsible for purchasing and laundry, said police. "He has training but that doesn't make him a security professional," said the source.

The Carlton has denied all responsibility for the heist.

Its director, Francois Chopinet, told AFP in an email that "no client at the hotel or staff" was implicated in the incident.

InterContinental Hotels Group, to which the Cannes hotel belongs, was not available for comment.

Hotel employees and unions at the hotel have laid the blame firmly with the Carlton.

According to union member Ange Romiti, the security in the room was "not suitable" for the exhibition.

The heist took place on Sunday when a man armed with a semi-automatic pistol walked into the hotel, then proceeded to steal the jewels.

The thief escaped with 72 pieces including rings, necklaces and bracelets, including 34 "exceptional" pieces.

According to a source close to the investigation, the man was "well informed, because he acted at the right moment, in the right place".

Seconds later, the thief fled through a French window which looks out onto the famous Croisette promenade popular with tourists, dropping several pieces of "lesser value" on the way.

While the particularly bling pieces that were stolen, worth millions of euros each, were insured, the other jewels – worth between €20,000 and €40,000 – were not, a source close to the investigation said.

Leviev's insurance should cover all of the lost pieces, Jacques Lemoine, an industry specialist, told AFP, adding that the British bank Lloyds had acted as insurers for Leviev.

The heist comes head-to-head with what is considered the world's largest ever haul of jewellery – valued at around €100 million – which took place in Belgium in 2003.

It is also France's biggest jewellery heist.

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.

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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.