The audacious one-man raid on the Carlton Hotel in Cannes at the weekend was the largest jewellery robbery in French history, it emerged today.
The value of the diamond earrings and diamond-encrusted watches stolen from an exhibition at the hotel is now estimated at €103 million (£89 million) – more than double the amount first reported. The apparently simple raid now counts as one of biggest jewel robberies anywhere in the world.
The masked and armed thief broke into the hotel through a French window and strolled into a show called “Extraordinary Diamonds”, organised by Leviev, the Russian-based jewellery house. He produced an automatic pistol and ordered staff to fill a small case with several sacks of items which had just been brought up to the exhibition from the hotel’s safe room.
The Carlton Hotel was the setting for many scenes in Alfred Hitchcocks’s 1955 movie “To Catch a Thief” – about a diamond thief who preys on millionaires on the French Riviera.
French investigators originally estimated the value of the stolen jewellery at €40 million, before briefly revising the figure downward to €10 million. A full inventory of the missing items produced yesterday afternoon by the Leview company reached the staggering figure of €103 million.
The raider, who wore gloves, a peaked cap and a scarf wrapped around his face, is believed to have escaped – at least initially – on foot. The apparent simplicity of the raid depended on careful planning. The thief arrived in the hotel at 11.30am – at the moment when the jewellery had been brought to an exhibition room but not yet placed in secure display cases.
There have been a rash of large diamond robberies in Europe this year, including two other raids in the Cannes area during the film festival in May. A diamond necklace worth €2 million, belonging to the Swiss jeweller De Grisogno, was stolen during a gala connected to the festival at Cap d’Antibes. A few days earlier a safe containing jewellery worth €1 million was wrenched from the wall of a room at a Novotel hotel in Cannes.