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08/01/2013

To catch a diamond thief

In what has been described as the heist of the century, $136 million in jewels was stolen from the ground floor of the glamorous Carleton Intercontinental Hotel in Cannes last Friday. The famous hotel is where director Alfred Hitchcock filmed 1955's 'To Catch A Thief'

No one has yet been arrested. There were only a few, unarmed guards to protect the jewels which were part of a temporary exhibition, a local prosecutor told Associated Press. It took less than a minute to make off with the loot, he added. 

Colin Randall, a British journalist based in the south of France told Voice of Russia that despite the enormity of the theft, security measures haven’t actually improved much since then in the resort on the French Riviera.  

 “There seems to be a strange mix of 'yes let’s have some security' but almost a resignation that crime will happen and you almost get this strange feeling that after the event a lot more effort is taken in getting journalists to stop taking film footage than there was to defend the stolen property in the first place,” he told the broadcaster.

Thieves can circumvent even the best security measures. On August 6 2009, two thieves wearing wigs and prosthetics held up at gunpoint staff at the Graff jewellery boutique on London’s New Bond St. and stole $65 million worth of rings, bracelets and necklaces. It is the second biggest robbery in British history. The gunmen got away in a blue BMW. All of the diamonds had been laser-inscribed with the Graff logo and a Gemological Institute of America identification number which may lead some to think the baubles would be difficult to sell. But none was ever recovered. 

In February 2003, a ring of Italian thieves headed by Leonardo Notarbartolo broke into a vault two floors under the highly secure Antwerp Diamond Center and stole about $100 million in gold, loose diamonds and other jewels. The vault was protected by ten layers of security Salon.com reported, including infrared heat detectors, a magnetic field and a lock with 100 million possible combinations.  The loot was never found, but Notarbartolo was caught and sentenced to 10 years in prison. 

Graff jewels
Some of the jewels stolen from the Graff store in London in August 2009 Handout/Getty

 

 

 

 

 

Hamida Ghafour is a foreign affairs reporter at The Star. She has lived and worked in the Middle East and Asia for more than 10 years and is the author of a book on Afghanistan. Follow her on Twitter @HamidaGhafour

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