With a reported haul of $136 million, this week’s robbery at a hotel in Cannes, France, may set a record as one of the largest jewelry heists in history.
“Except for some of the airport heists, I’ve never seen a bigger heist in terms of this type of event,” says John Kennedy, president of the Jewelers’ Security Alliance.
According to reports, a masked gunman walked into the Carlton Hotel and forced employees to fill up several bags with 72 Leviev gems on display. There were security guards present, but all were unarmed. The whole robbery was reportedly over in less than a minute.
Kennedy says the security strikes him as “amazingly lax.”
“To have this extraordinary value at a hotel and invite the public—and have no armed guards and no police notification—is extraordinary by U.S. standards,” he says. “It is just reckless to have such a show with that limited protection.”
Kennedy doubts the gunman was the only person involved in the theft.
“It is unlikely that he was completely alone,” he says. “Either he or someone else cased the place before hand. You can’t just go in blind and figure out a way to get in and out. He may have had accomplices watching out for him.”
Anthony Roman, CEO of the security firm Roman and Associates, says the case strikes him as the work of the notorious “Pink Panther” gang of European jewel thieves.
“This is not an ordinary robbery,” Roman says. “But this is not an ordinary group. The core group is suspected to be battle-hardened soldiers from the 1990s Balkans war. They used commando-style tactics for their robberies. They use extreme speed and a small amount of people for the actual theft and sophisticated planning and intelligence. They know exactly what they want and how to get it.”
But Kennedy says that blaming the Panthers has become a “knee-jerk reaction” in European robberies.
“It’s almost become an excuse,” he says. “And this isn’t really their M.O., to send a lone gunman in.”
Roman says the next step for the robber will be trying to get rid of the haul.
“Some of the unique pieces can be difficult to get rid of,” he says. “So they may change them a bit. They may remove them from their setting. That might reduce their value somewhat but they are still extremely valuable.”
According to NBCNews.com, French authorities have increased border security in their hunt for the gunman.