Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

Riviera raiders steal £88m jewels

The Carlton hotel, in Cannes where jewel thieves grabbed £35.5 million (AP)

A massive £88.5 million in jewellery has been stolen from an exhibition at one of the French Riviera's top hotels.

The Carlton Intercontinental Hotel in Cannes was hosting a temporary jewellery show over the summer from the prestigious Leviev diamond house, owned by Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev.

Police said the theft took place around noon on Sunday, but could not confirm reports that the robber was a single gunman who stuffed a suitcase with the gems. Orignally the jewels were valued at £35.5 million, but police later raised it the £88.5 million.

The Carlton hotel featured prominently in Alfred Hitchcock's "To Catch a Thief," which starred Cary Grant as a reformed burglar chasing a jewel thief. It is situated on the exclusive Promenade de la Croisette that stretches a mile and a half along the sea front, and is thronged by the rich and famous throughout the year.

The gems were supposed to be on public display until the end of August. It was not clear how many pieces were stolen. Mr Leviev said: "Company officials are cooperating with local authorities investigating the loss and are relieved that no one was injured in the robbery."

Several police officers were placed in front of the Carlton exhibition room - near a Cartier diamond boutique - to prevent journalists and photographers from getting a look at the scene of the crime.

Europe has been struck by several bold jewellery thefts in recent years, some of which have involved tens of millions of dollars in treasure.

On February 18 in Belgium, £32 million of diamonds were stolen. Robbers targeted stones from the global diamond centre of Antwerp that had been loaded on a plane headed to Zurich. Authorities have since detained dozens of people and recovered much of the stolen items.

In December 2008 armed robbers wearing women's wigs and clothing made off with diamond rings, gem-studded bracelets and other jewellery said then to be worth £70 million from a Harry Winston boutique in Paris.

Also in 2008 - in February of that year - in a scene reminiscent of the movie "The Italian Job," masked thieves drilled a tunnel into a Damiani jewelry company showroom in Milan, Italy. They tied up the staff with plastic cable and sticky tape, then stole gold, diamonds and rubies worth £13 million. The robbers had been digging for several weeks from a building under construction next door.

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