, CANNES, July 29 – An armed man who staged a brazen heist in a French Riviera luxury hotel took off with jewels worth $136 million (103 million euros), prosecutors said Monday, in one of the world’s biggest jewellery thefts.
Undisturbed by security staff, the man on Sunday walked into the Carlton in the posh resort of Cannes a hotel popular with film stars that was once the location of Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller “To Catch A Thief”.
Armed with a semi automatic pistol, his head covered with a cloth, he proceeded to steal items that were part of an exhibition by a group owned by Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev, escaping with a briefcase full of jewels and watches incrusted in diamonds.
Authorities had initially estimated the heist was worth $53 million (40 million euros), but after an inventory of the exhibition, prosecutors in Grasse near Cannes have concluded that it is valued at a much higher $136 million.
As such, it comes head to head with what is considered the world’s largest ever haul of jewellery valued at around 100 million euros which took place in Belgium in 2003.
Robbers at the time emptied more than 120 out of 160 safety deposit boxes inside the heavily fortified “Diamond Centre” in the heart of Antwerp’s diamond district.
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.
“It all happened very quickly and without any violence”, the prosecutor’s office said Sunday about the robbery in Cannes, famous for its annual star studded film festival.
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.