[UPDATE 12:00 P.M.] The value of jewelry stolen from an exhibition in the French resort city of Cannes on Sunday is close to $136 million -- more than twice the amount stated in earlier reports -- the Nice prosecutor's office told reporters Monday.
An armed robber got away with approximately $53 million worth of jewels after he lifted the score from the Carlton Intercontinental Hotel in Cannes on Sunday. According to officials, the theft took place in broad daylight while the hotel was hosting a temporary jewelry exhibit from the prestigious Leviev diamond house, which is owned by Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev.
A police spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter on the record, told the Associated Press the theft took place around noon at the hotel, which is situated on the exclusive Promenade de la Croisette that stretches a mile and a half along the French Riviera. It is being referred to as one of Europe’s biggest heists in years.
"It's a huge theft. Anytime you talk about a heist with many millions of dollars it turns heads and feeds the imagination," Jonathan Sazonoff, U.S. editor for the Museum Security Network website and an authority on high-value crime, told the A.P. Sazonoff added that the likelihood of getting the jewels back is slim because thieves can easily sell them off.
This is the third major jewel heist this year to take place at Cannes -- $1.4 million of gems were stolen in May from a Swiss jeweler who was staying at the Hotel Novotel Cannes during the French city's prestigious film festival. Later in the week, a diamond necklace worth $2.6 million was taken during a star-studded party at the Hotel Du Cap-Eden-Roc in Antibes.
Sazonoff said police would likely probe whether Sunday's heist has any connection to alleged members of the Pink Panther jewel thief gang who reportedly escaped from Jail on Thursday.
Milan Poparic fled the Orbe prison in the western Swiss state of Vaud with fellow inmate Adrian Albrecht, after accomplices rammed a gate and overpowered guards with bursts from their AK-47s, police said. According to Interpol, the group has targeted luxury watch and jewelry stores in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the United States, netting more than $285 million since 1999. Poparic is the third member of the Pink Panthers to escape from a Swiss prison in as many months, according to Vaud police.