“Diamonds…the only thing in the world you can’t resist.” Grace Kelly’s words to her infamous cat burglar love interest in Hitchcock’s 1955 iconic movie To Catch a Thief seems a case of life imitating art after a weekend theft in Cannes. In a simple, but daring plan a gunman held up three security guards at a luxury hotel on the French Riviera then disappeared with an estimated $136 million in diamond jewelry.
Since the weekend theft the initial estimate of $53 million proved inaccurate with the latest value of the thief’s haul now based on a more complete itemized list of the lost jewelry. According to information released to news agencies the jewels were a part of the Leviev diamond house collection on exhibit at the Carlton InterContinental Hotel. This legendary luxury hotel standing along the Promenade de la Croisette in Cannes is often a getaway for the rich and famous. The hotel is also the site used by Hitchcock when filming To Catch and Thief. Cary Grant played the part of John Robie a reformed criminal chasing after a copy cat jewel thief in order to impress Frances Stevens played by Grace Kelly.
According to reports from the Agence France-Presse around 11:30 on July 21st, a man wearing a cap with a scarf over his face entered the exhibition then used a handgun to threaten the small group of visitors and three security guards. After grabbing a bag, and a briefcase containing the jewelry the thief then fled on foot disappearing into the crowds along the de la Croisette. Police have stated to the press it appears the theft was a professional job as the entire crime took only a minute and the thief knew exactly what items to take.
This isn’t the first time the Carlton has experienced a theft of this type. In 1994, thieves armed with machine guns took $45 million in gems from the hotel. The Carlton where stars are often found every year during the Cannes Film Festival aren’t alone in seeing this type of high profile crime. In May of this year jewelry estimated at several million dollars was stolen in two other thefts from luxury hotels during the festival. Elsewhere in Europe thieves have been more brazen. In one incident in February several thieves armed with automatic weapons and dressed as law enforcement officers surrounded a plane on the tarmac at a Brussels airport stealing more than $10 million dollars in diamonds.
The weekend theft at Cannes came just days after Swiss police announced a member of the Pink Panther gang escaped from prison. Milan Poparic a member of the Bosnian based gang known for a number of daring and quick international jewel thefts escaped along with another inmate with the help of two armed accomplices. Poparic was in prison for his part in a 2009 robbery of a jewelry store. He is the third member of the Pink Panther gang to escape from a Swiss prison since May of this year. At this time, police have not publicly linked the escapes to the theft in Cannes.