$1.3 Million Reward Offered After “Biggest” Jewelry Theft
… by William George Shuster
Jewelers should be on the alert for suspicious clients and gem goods, says JSA
EXCLUSIVE!! Images of 36 stolen items!
One of the largest rewards ever for stolen jewelry is being offered following one of the largest jewelry robberies in modern history.
One million Euros (approx. $1.3 million; 860 British pounds) is being offered by the insurer to anyone who can help recover $136 million of diamond jewelry stolen in a brazen one-minute robbery July 28 from an exhibition at the luxury Carlton Hotel, in Cannes, France.
The reward will go to “the first person who provides information which leads to recovery of the goods,” says a statement by SW Associates, a Paris-based loss adjuster and risk manager working for Lloyds of London. Anyone with information can e-mail SW Associates at reward1millionE@gmail.com.
On its own web site, Lloyds called the robbery “one of the world’s biggest jewelry thefts” and said it “highlight[s] the risks of exhibiting precious gems.”
The stolen jewelry—reportedly including 34 diamond rings, earrings, necklaces, a brooch, and pendants–is worth $136 million, said the insurer and the local French prosecutor handling the case. (Photos and descriptions of the stolen items are on the Jewelers’ Security Alliance’s Stolen Jewelry web site, www.stolenjewelry.org.)
The jewelry belongs to the Leviev diamond house, owned by billionaire Israeli diamond and real estate mogul Lev Leviev. The five-star Carlton hotel, the most famous in the French Riviera resort, is celebrating its centennial, and a highlight had been the public jewelry exhibition, organized by a Dubai company. It opened July 20 and was due to run until the end of August.
Only a minute. The theft occurred about noon on July 28, a Sunday. According to the police and prosecutor’s reports, a lone thief, wearing a hat and a scarf around his face, entered the exhibition room through French doors, on the side of the room, facing Cannes’ world-famous Croisette promenade. He held an automatic revolver on three unarmed private security guards, the exhibit manager and two vendors, as he emptied jewelry on display into a sack, and took it, a briefcase and a small box. He fled through the French doors, spilling some jewelry, which was quickly scooped up after he left.
The theft only lasted a minute or less, said police.
The Lieviev company and the Carlton hotel each issued brief statements afterward saying they were working with police and the insurers. Leviev said it “takes the security of our staff and merchandise very seriously and all reasonable security measures required by our insurers were implemented prior to the robbery.” The hotel said none of its employees or guests “were involved in or affected by the incident.” Neither company has made any further comment.
The stolen gems, say authorities, were probably disposed of quickly. Even so, jewelers, gem dealers and appraisers in Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere, should be especially vigilant, said John Kennedy, president of Jewelers’ Security Alliance, to The Roskin Gem News Report “The gems could be re-cut, with new or fraudulent grading reports, and can be sold in commercial channels,” he said. “Familiarize yourselves with the stolen goods and their descriptions. If someone comes to you, especially an unfamiliar client, with questionable goods, and you believe they are stolen, call the police.”
Raising many questions. The high-profile robbery—one of several in Cannes in recent months—stunned not only the city’s wealthy residents and glamorous celebrity vacationers, but also law enforcement and insurance officials for several reasons.
One is the thief’s easy access to the exhibition, located in a ground floor room in a wing of the hotel with direct access to the street. At press time, it was unclear if the French doors through which he entered and fled were locked, and if not, who unlocked them? Police found no sign of forced entry. Even the French prosecutor raised the question at his press conference. “Why was he able to open this door [which is normally locked],” he wondered aloud.
Another concern, say published reports, is the exhibit’s security. Some people, especially in the U.S., wondered why the guards were unarmed. However, this is normal in France, note experts, where security guards are rarely allowed to be armed. Also, many hotels don’t permit them to carry guns, Even so, Kennedy told the RGNR, “ a public high-value exhibition like this should be held on an upstairs floor, be ‘invitation-only,’ and have armed guards who vet everyone who enters.” Otherwise, he said, “If you can’t have good protection, don’t have the show.”
In addition, Cannes police weren’t told ahead of time about the luxury diamond exhibition nor asked to provide added protection or surveillance. Yet, this was a high-profile public event. Tall pink banners featuring an exquisite diamond necklace and announcing “Leviev – Extraordinaire Diamonds” lined the outside of the hotel since mid-July. “Publicly advertising a high-value show like this involved immense risk,” said Kennedy.
Most police, security and insurance officials doubt the robbery was the work of a lone, lucky amateur. Those in France suggested an accomplice with knowledge of the exhibition and/or the hotel assisted in the theft, at least by “casing” them before the robbery. French police are closely reviewing video surveillance footage of the hotel and past jewelry-theft cases for clues.
One group of criminals mentioned immediately after the theft is the Pink Panthers, a gang of well-organized professional jewelry thieves which has staged many quick and brazen high-profile luxury jewelry thefts in Europe in the past decade. At press time, however, there wasn’t any specific link.
A history of robberies.
The Carlton Hotel and Cannes have a history of spectacular jewelry robberies, both cinematic and actual. The hotel was prominently featured in the 1955 Alfred Hitchcock film, “To Catch A Thief,” which concerns the hunt for a daring “cat burglar” jewelry thief. Unfortunately, a real -life high-profile robbery—which until July 28 was the biggest-ever jewelry heist—did hit the hotel in August 1994. Three men brandishing automatic weapons entered a jewelry store in the hotel, opened fire and made off with $60 million in jewelry and gems.
Investigators later determined that the thieves, who were never caught, fired blanks.
Cannes itself, a favorite resort for the bejeweled rich and celebrated, is a magnet for jewelry thieves, especially during its annual world-famous film festival. This year in May, the event was hit by at least two high-profile jewelry heists.
The first was a pre-dawn robbery. A safe box with $1.4 million in jewelry for loan to visiting movie stars was ripped from a wall in the hotel room of a U.S. employee of jeweler Chopard while she was out, police said.
In a second theft, a de Grisogono diamond necklace, worth about $2 million and part of a new collection on display, disappeared during a party at another luxury hotel.
And three days after the Carlton Hotel robbery, two armed men robbed a Cannes luxury watch store of $1.6 million in timepieces The same store had already been robbed in February of $1.3 million in luxury watches.
** Wiliam George Shuster
Multi-award winning freelance writer
Three-time winner, the Jesse H. Neal Award–
business journalism’s highest honor
Author, “Legacy of Leadership,”
the story of the Gemological Institute of America