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CRIME

Axe-wielding robbers steal millions in raid on Paris Ritz

A gang of five robbers armed with hatchets launched a spectacular raid on the world famous Ritz hotel in Paris Wednesday, making off with an estimated four million euros worth of jewels, investigators said.

Axe-wielding robbers steal millions in raid on Paris Ritz
AFP

Three of the gang were detained at the scene but two remained at large as of Thursday evening, a police source said.

A judicial source put the value of the jewels seized at “more than four million euros” ($4.75 million).

The five men armed with hatchets arrived at the hotel in Paris' luxurious Place Vendome around 6:30 pm (1730 GMT) before smashing the windows on the ground floor and making off with the jewels.

“World-famous jewellers display their jewellery at the Ritz,” a police source said.

Three of the gang were detained while fleeing the scene and an AFP journalist said some roads around the hotel were sealed off by security forces following the incident.

Interior minister Gerard Collomb praised officers' “professionalism” saying they had “done our police force credit”.

“We heard a loud noise and lots of racket in the street,” one hotel employee told AFP.

“Passers-by took refuge in the hotel. We didn't know what was going on until someone told us there had been a robbery.” 

Another employee said he saw a motorbike speed along a road at the back of the hotel after the break-in.

Place Vendome, with its opulent window displays, has been the scene of several audacious daytime raids.

In March 2016, two robbers stole an estimated six million euros worth of jewels from luxury fashion brand Chopard after threatening employees with a gun and grenade. Three men were charged in connection with that heist.

The French capital's most high-profile recent jewellery theft was carried out in October 2016 against US reality television star Kim Kardashian.

Five men, some wearing jackets with police insignia, held Kardashian at gunpoint, making off with several pieces of gold and diamond jewellery as well as a ring — a total estimated worth of nine million euros.

One of the robbers, fleeing the scene on a bicycle, dropped a diamond-encrusted cross worth 30,000 euros, which was found by a passer-by a few hours later.

It remains the only piece to be recovered from the heist.

CRIME

French court orders partial release for convicted Corsican nationalist

A French court on Tuesday ordered the partial release of a Corsican nationalist who has served 24 years in jail for the 1998 murder of a top French official.

French court orders partial release for convicted Corsican nationalist

Under the ruling, Pierre Alessandri will be allowed out of jail to work for a landscaping company in the daytime and will be granted a full conditional release in a year if he behaves well.

The relaxation of Alessandri’s conditions of detention came amid tensions between the Mediterranean island’s pro-autonomy leaders and the French state, after a fellow Corsican detained in the same case was killed in a French prison in March.

Alessandri and a third Corsican detainee were transferred from mainland France to a jail in Corsica in April after the murder of Yvan Colonna.

The Paris appeals court granted Alessandri “a probationary partial release” of 12 months from February 13, the prosecutor-general Remy Heitz said.

If he behaves well, he would then be granted “conditional release” for another ten years, he said.

Alessandri’s lawyer Eric Barbolosi hailed the ruling as a “great relief”.

“For the first time in a court of appeals, the magistrates made a decision based on the criteria necessary for a conditional release, not the particular nature of the case,” he said.

Alessandri had served enough time to be eligible for such a release by 2017, and had already petitioned to be freed three times.

But national anti-terror prosecutors objected, and an appeals court barred his release.

The country’s highest court then quashed one of these decisions, ordering the Paris appeals court to re-examine it.

Colonna, a former goat herder, was announced dead on March 21 after an Islamist extremist who accused him of blasphemy strangled and suffocated him in a prison in the southern town of Arles in mainland France.

He was detained in 2003 after four years on the run, and sentenced in 2007, and then again in 2011, to life in jail over the killing in 1998 of the French government prefect of Corsica, Claude Erignac.

The killing was the most shocking of a series of attacks by pro-independence militant group FLNC.

Alessandri and another nationalist, Alain Ferrandi, had already been sentenced to life in jail in 2003 over the murder.

Ferrandi, who was transferred to the same Corsican jail, has also requested to be released on parole, and a decision is due on February 23rd.

Colonna’s murder sparked violent protests in Corsica.

It galvanised the nationalist movement and led President Emmanuel Macron’s government to offer talks about giving greater political autonomy to the territory.

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