The massive €40m jewellery theft in Cannes happened at a hotel that featured prominently in Alfred Hitchcock’s “To Catch a Thief,” which starred Cary Grant as a reformed burglar chasing a jewel thief.
The Carlton Intercontinental Hotel in Cannes was hosting a temporary jewellery show over the summer from the prestigious Leviev diamond house, owned by Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev.
Police said the theft took place around noon on Sunday, but could not confirm reports that the robber was a single gunman who stuffed a suitcase with the gems.
The French Riviera hotel is situated on the exclusive Promenade de la Croisette that stretches a mile and a half along the sea front, and is thronged by the rich and famous throughout the year.
The gems were supposed to be on public display until the end of August. It was not clear how many pieces were stolen.
Mr Leviev said: “Company officials are cooperating with local authorities investigating the loss and are relieved that no one was injured in the robbery.”
Several police officers were placed in front of the Carlton exhibition room - near a Cartier diamond boutique – to prevent journalists and photographers from getting a look at the scene of the crime.
Europe has been struck by several bold jewellery thefts in recent years, some of which have involved tens of millions of dollars in treasure.
On February 18 in Belgium, £32 million of diamonds were stolen. Robbers targeted stones from the global diamond centre of Antwerp that had been loaded on a plane headed to Zurich. Authorities have since detained dozens of people and recovered much of the stolen items.
In December 2008 armed robbers wearing women’s wigs and clothing made off with diamond rings, gem-studded bracelets and other jewellery said then to be worth £70 million from a Harry Winston boutique in Paris.
Also in 2008 – in February of that year – in a scene reminiscent of the movie “The Italian Job,” masked thieves drilled a tunnel into a Damiani jewelry company showroom in Milan, Italy. They tied up the staff with plastic cable and sticky tape, then stole gold, diamonds and rubies worth £13 million. The robbers had been digging for several weeks from a building under construction next door.
Cannes appears to be a favorite target this year – in May it was struck by other two highly publicized jewelry raids during the Cannes Film Festival.
Police will be checking to see if the latest robbery is linked to recent jail escapes by alleged members of the Pink Panther jewel thief gang.
On Thursday gang member Milan Poparic escaped his Swiss prison after accomplices rammed a gate and overpowered guards with bursts from their AK-47s.
Police say the Pink Panther network’s members are prime suspects in a series of daring thefts. According to Interpol, the group has targeted luxury watch and jewelry stores in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the United States.
Poparic is the third member of the Pink Panthers to escape from a Swiss prison in as many months.