Thief snatches €40m worth of diamonds from Cannes hotel
A lone gunman pulled off one of the biggest jewellery thefts in French history, walking out of the Carlton Hotel in Cannes with a suitcase full of diamonds worth an estimated €40m.
Initial reports said the raider strolled into an exhibition of "exceptional jewellery" around midday.
The thief, who appeared to be acting alone, stuffed a small suitcase with jewels and made his getaway. No violence was used and it was unclear how many pieces were stolen.
The exhibition was organised by the Moscow-based Leviev diamond house, owned by 56-year-old Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev.
The Carlton Hotel is situated on the exclusive Promenade de la Croisette that stretches a mile-and-a-half along the French Riviera, and is thronged with the rich and famous throughout the year.
It is the second big jewel theft in the French Riviera resort in two months. A safe containing jewels valued at €1m was stolen from another hotel during the Cannes film festival in May. The stolen items were due to be loaned to stars attending the festival.
If the value of yesterday's theft is confirmed, it will be the second-biggest jewel raid in French history. In 2008, an attack on the Harry Winston jewellery shop in Paris yielded diamonds, watches and other items worth €80m.
Neither the hotel management nor the Cannes police would comment on yesterday's raid. Police blocked access to the exhibition room at the Carlton to prevent journalists from entering.
The hotel is one of the most exclusive in the world, and the choice of Hollywood stars during the film festival and of Arab princes and Russian millionaires during the summer.
The exhibition of "exceptional jewellery" organised by the Leviev company was due to run until the end of August.
Lev Leviev has close ties with Russian president Vladimir Putin.
There has been a rash of diamond raids in Europe this year, perhaps generated by the rising price of diamonds worldwide.
In Belgium in February, armed thieves dressed as police broke through the perimeter fence at Brussels airport and stole €40m worth of diamonds being loaded on to a plane.
Yesterday's robbery comes just days after a member of the notorious "Pink Panther" jewel gang escaped from a Swiss prison after accomplices rammed a gate and overpowered guards with bursts from their AK-47s, police said.
Milan Poparic fled with fellow inmate Adrian Albrecht from the Orbe prison in the western state of Vaud.
Police say the Pink Panther network's members are prime suspects in a series of daring thefts. (© Independent News Service)