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Some jewels from Ritz hotel heist recovered by French police

Several luxury brands display their jewels in the storied Ritz, famous as the lodging of choice for Coco Chanel and Ernest Hemingway as well as Princess Diana.

world Updated: Jan 11, 2018 18:12 IST
The Ritz luxury hotel in Paris on January 10, 2018, after armed robbers made off with millions of euros worth of jewellery.
The Ritz luxury hotel in Paris on January 10, 2018, after armed robbers made off with millions of euros worth of jewellery.(AFP)

French police have recovered some of the jewels worth over 4.0 million euros looted from the Ritz hotel in central Paris, a police source told AFP on Thursday, as officers hunt for two robbers who remain on the run.

The gang burst into the five-star hotel on the French capital’s glitzy Place Vendome through a rear staff entrance on Wednesday evening and smashed the display windows of jewellery shops on the ground floor.

Three men were arrested as they tried to flee by the way they came in with bags of gems and watches.

But they came up against locked doors. “Obviously there is a security system and an alarm in this type of establishment,” a police source said.

Part of the loot was recovered after being scattered about during the arrest of the three suspects, while more jewels and watches were found in a bag dropped by one of the two robbers who got away, another source added, without being able to give an estimate for the value of the goods retrieved.

Paris map showing Ritz hotel. (AFP)

The three men arrested, all around 0 years old, are from the Seine-Saint-Denis area north of Paris, and are “well known the police for armed robbery, violence and receiving stolen goods”, a source close to the inquiry said.

The incident took place at around 6.30pm.

A police team in charge of patrolling the square -- home to some of Paris’s top jewellers and watchmakers, as well as the justice ministry -- was quickly on the scene.

Place Vendome has been the scene of several daring jewellery heists in recent years.

Security in the neighbourhood was beefed up in 2014 but robbers have continued to strike.

Several luxury brands display their jewels in the storied Ritz, famous as the lodging of choice for Coco Chanel and Ernest Hemingway as well as Princess Diana, who stayed there before her death in a car crash in a Paris tunnel in 1997.

Wednesday’s robbery took place a year and half after the hotel re-opened its palatial doors to guests after nearly four years of renovations and a massive fire.

The suspects were wearing gloves and balaclavas and carrying handguns as well as hatchets, according to police sources.

On finding their escape route blocked they tried to transfer the loot through a window to two accomplices waiting outside.

One of the two accomplices fled by car. The other made his getaway on a motorbike, dropping a bag of jewels in the process.

On Thursday, the source close to the inquiry said the car had been found in the Val d’Oise department, near Seine-Saint-Denis.

Contacted by AFP, the Ritz management declined to comment on the robbery.

Long list of heists

The total value of the loot was estimated at 4.0 million euros ($4.75 million), a judicial source told AFP.

Interior Minister Gerard Collomb praised the responding officers for the arrests, saying they had “done our police force credit.”

France has found itself repeatedly in the headlines for high-profile robberies, particularly in Paris and on the Cote d’Azur.

US reality television star Kim Kardashian was the target of one of the biggest heists in recent years, while attending Paris Fashion Week in October 2016.

Five men, some wearing jackets with police insignia, held up Kardashian at gunpoint in a luxury apartment in the central Madeleine district, making off with a diamond ring and other jewellery pieces valued in total at nine million euros.

One of the robbers, fleeing the scene on a bicycle, dropped a diamond-encrusted cross worth 30,000 euros, which was found by a passer-by a few hours later.

The gold jewellery was melted down into bars, one of the six suspects behing held over the case told investigators.

The ring has yet to be recovered.