Thursday 14 December 2017

Eight men charged with €100m jewellery heist go on trial in Paris

File photo: Part of the jewels recovered after French police probing a record heist at Harry Winston jewelers in Paris arrested 25 people. Photo:AFP/Getty Images
File photo: Part of the jewels recovered after French police probing a record heist at Harry Winston jewelers in Paris arrested 25 people. Photo:AFP/Getty Images
French lawyer Leon Lef Forster, representing defendant Hassen Belferroum, arrives on February 3, 2015 at the courthouse in Paris for the opening of the Harry Winston robbery trial. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
French lawyer Philippe Stepniewski (left) arrives with his client Mouloud Djennad on February 3, 2015 at the courthouse in Paris for the opening of the Harry Winston robbery trial. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Eight men charged with stealing jewellery worth more than €100m have gone on trial in Paris.

They are accused of stealing luxury watches, necklaces, earrings and other valuables from a Harry Winston boutique in two operations.

Many of the jewels have never been found.

Charges against the men include armed robbery in an organised gang, association with a criminal enterprise and receiving stolen goods.

Four men dressed as building painters entered the store near the Champs-Elysees, a popular tourist area, by a service entrance in 2007, tying up staff and stealing 360 items of jewellery and 120 watches, according to judicial documents.

A year later, the store was targeted again. Four men - three wearing wigs and dressed as women - walked in the main entrance and stole 297 pieces of jewellery and 104 watches in less than 20 minutes.

"Look at all the TV series of jewel heists, where you have people wearing masks, flak jackets. And here, we have stockings and high heels," defence lawyer Eric Dupond-Moretti told reporters.

A security guard for the boutique is among those suspected of participating in the heists. The lawyer for guard Mouloud Djennad said his client is hoping to find some "serenity" after the trial.

The suspected ringleader, Douadi Yahiaoui, has already served several years in prison on drug convictions.

Another defendant, Hassen Belferroum, says he was scooped up unfairly and is innocent, according to his lawyer.

Some stolen jewels were found when police rounded up 25 people in a 2009 sweep. In 2011, 19 rings and three sets of earrings worth a total of 18 million euros (£13.6 million) were dug out from a Paris-area rain sewer near Yahiaoui's house, authorities said.

Authorities have given varying estimates of the value of the stolen goods, but overall the two heists are believed to have involved jewels worth more than €100m.

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