It sounds like something straight out of a James Bond movie; Europe suffered one of the biggest jewel heists in years as 53 million dollars’ worth of diamonds and other jewels were stolen out of the Carlton Intercontinental Hotel in Cannes. The similarities to cinema don’t end there, though, as three members of a notorious group of thieves calling themselves “the Pink Panther Gang” had recently escaped from prisons in Switzerland. The hotel from which the diamonds and other jewels were taken was also featured in the Cary Grant movie “To Catch a Thief.”
Apparently, European jewel thieves are much more cinema-aware than American criminals. They often choose Cannes, the site of a huge annual film festival, as their venue of choice for robbery. Italian thieves may be more film-loving than all the rest; five years ago, they staged a nearly identical scene to the movie “The Italian Job” when they bore a tunnel into a prominent jewelry company in Milan. The tunnel took weeks to dig, and when the robbers arrived inside the building they tied up the workers there in the typical movie villain style- with plastic cables and duct tape.
2008 was a very busy year for European jewelry heists. In that year, besides the “Italian Job” job, Harry Winston’s shop in Paris was the scene of a jewelry heist in which the thieves made off with 140 million dollars of merchandise.
Security expert Jonathan Sazonoff explained that the robbers are indeed drawn to the theatrics of their criminal trade and this giant jewelry heist is fit for film because of the robbers’ love of theatrics. ”The brazen drama of it is their style,” Sazonoff said “… The possibility of the reemergence of the Pink Panther gang is very troubling and taken seriously by law enforcement worldwide.” Furthermore, he suspects that the recent jail breaks in Switzerland could very well have something to do with the latest jewelry heist. ”The theft of high value diamonds is exactly what they do,” he said, “so it’s not a great leap to assume they are on the warpath again. They are a crime wave waiting to happen.” He also points to the fact that Cannes is chock full of wealthy people, and where wealthy people go, so go jewels.
He does not expect that the gems will be returned anytime soon because jewels are very easy to convert into fast cash with a minimum amount of hassle. “The fear is, if you’re dealing with high-quality minerals, it’s hard to get them back. They can be broken up and so they can be easily smuggled and sold,” he said.
In this latest case, the hotel was hosting a jewelry show with gems owned by Lev Leviev, an Israeli billionaire. The location may have been chosen because of its close proximity to Promenade de la Croisette, a long road that runs right beside the French Riviera. This could make for a swift getaway.
In this case of life imitating art, police hope for a fast resolution. A giant jewelry heist, even if it is fit for film, is not good for business. While this type of thievery has been glamorized by the film industry, and although the thieves seem to have a very keen interest in keeping a flair for the dramatic in their “work,” having 53 million dollars’ worth of diamonds stolen is no laughing matter and will surely have law enforcement doing legitimate work, and putting in a lot of overtime.
Source: Stuff NZ