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$ 136 Million Jewel Heist Thief Still Uncaught

$ 136 Million Jewel Heist Thief Still Uncaught

The twists and turns of the story are something right out of a movie. In fact, the hotel where it occurred was the setting for the classic Alfred Hitchcock movie “To Catch a Thief”. Only this time, at least so far, they haven’t caught the thief.

As top high end jewelry buyers in Boca Raton, we understand the magnitude of what happened in Cannes, France on July 28th 2013. It took place at the luxurious Cannes Carlton Intercontinental Hotel. It was a bold robbery that initially was thought to involve $53 million worth of high end and designer jewelry. It was much more significant than that. It was a heist, that upon closer look, totaled $136 million in valuable diamonds and gems. Every high end watch buyer and a luxury jewelry buyer across the world had to take notice.

But how did it happen? Just who was involved? Where are the valuable diamonds and gems today? Let’s take a look at what is being called the greatest jewelry heist in the history of France.

The Setting

The historic 343 room Carlton Intercontinental Hotel was built in 1911. During the Cannes Film Festival, this is where the world’s most famous movie stars call home. But more than that, the hotel has had its own starring roles. It was the major setting for the Grace Kelly and Cary Grant film “To Catch a Thief”, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It was where Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III of Monaco are said to have met and fell in love. The two married in 1956. It was used in Elton’s John’s “I’m Still Standing” music video. It was also a part of “There’s a Girl in my Soup”, a comedy starring Peter Sellers and Goldie Hawn.

This is not a hotel one stays at to catch a few hours of sleep. A quick check of their online reservation system tells us standard rooms bottom out at about $400 U.S. Those looking for premium rooms or suites can expect to pay in excess of $3,000 U.S. …per night. It was kind of fun to note their website guaranteed their lowest online rate.

Along with being the setting for movies, romantic interludes, and music videos, the hotel was also the real-life setting for a previously significant heist of high end jewelry. On August 11, 1994, three men, brandishing automatic weapons walked into the hotel’s jewelry store and began firing. Before it was all said and done, $60 million in precious gems and luxurious jewelry was gone. The investigation however, revealed that no real bullets were used. There were no bullet holes to be found. The robbers apparently had been firing blanks. They have never been caught.

The Robbery

On July 28th, 2013, an almost unimaginable amount of jewelry was at the Cannes Carlton…enough to make the best high end Jewelry buyer anywhere in the world blush. The luxurious jewelry was all part of a temporary exhibit by Israeli billionaire and mineralogist Lev Leviev. Lev had some of his most valuable gems on site.

What happened that day is interesting, and puzzling, especially considering the hotel’s 1994 robbery.

While it is not clear if the single robber had help entering, or broke in, he got into the exhibit area right before lunch. His timing couldn’t have been better. It was before the exhibition began so there were no customers or visitors milling about. In fact, the private guards that were there apparently were unarmed, and it was right before the extremely valuable gems were to be placed into the display cases. This meant they were more easily gathered. Wearing a bandana and motorcycle helmet, and holding a gun, he went through French doors and entered the room. Those in the room gave little resistance and several scrambled to the floor in fear of the gunman.

There they saw the gunman grab a briefcase along with a box of exceptional diamonds. Many of these diamonds were unblemished, having extraordinary clarity. Many were also of large carat weight and had extremely intricate cuts. Lev Leviev and his company deal in the world’s best diamonds and here they were, being taken at will, by a single perpetrator in a motorcycle helmet in one of the world’s most fabulous hotels. All in all he got 72 individual pieces, including large colored diamonds in pink and yellow. There were also emeralds and sapphires that were set in gold and platinum.

The Getaway

Some sources say the robber jumped out of a first floor window, dropping five feet to the ground below. Others say he went through a side door. Either way, no one went after him. While he dropped a bit of his loot on the way out, he was not to be seen again, or at least not identified.

Experts across the world have been appalled at the lack of security, and many believe there is much more to this story than what we currently know. Many believe that a man by the name of Milan Poparic may be the thief. He is a well-known member of the Pink Panthers crime ring who had escaped from prison just days before the robbery. The Pink Panthers have been associated with some $400 million worth of jewelry thefts across Europe. Some others have speculated it was simply a lone robber.

All accounts say the gunman was confident, seemed to be familiar with the settings, and was very quick at accomplishing his task.

Where It Stands Today

To this day, the identity of the helmeted thief is unknown. Many feel he must have had help, whether in transportation, housing or in selling the valuables on the black market. Others suggest the valuables are still together somewhere, waiting to be cashed in. Those specializing in high end jewelry buying across the globe have been put on notice.

The Pink Panthers are a bit flamboyant in their thievery, often using outrageous costumes and even Elvis wigs in their jobs. But this robbery in Cannes was absent of such colorful accents. It also was odd for a Panther operation in that a single robber apparently carried it off. Generally, a Pink Panther robbery would involve more than one visible offender.

Whatever happened on July 28th and afterwards, it is clear that authorities still don’t have an arrest and are very tight-lipped about any ongoing investigations. Whether that is because they have been embarrassed or because they are keeping their leads close to the vest to finish their investigation remains to be seen. The fact is that a very bold robber, along with $136 million of valuables, remain unaccounted for…and it is not the first time.

Raymond Lee Jewelers

If you are looking to sell high end jewelry in Boca Raton, we invite you to contact us. Whether you are selling inherited pieces from a designer like Tiffany & Company in South Florida or have damaged or no longer used gold jewelry in Boca Raton, discover why so many trust Raymond Lee Jewelers.

We are jewelry buyers in Boca Raton that will be pleased to give you a free estimate. Unless, of course, you happened to be wearing a motorcycle helmet in Cannes, France on July 28th of 2013.


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