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PARIS — Armed bandits seized more than $100 million worth of jewels in a brazen robbery at Harry Winston here Thursday, according to French police.
This story first appeared in the December 8, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Thieves made off with around 85 million euros, or $107 million, worth of necklaces, rings, watches and earrings in what appeared to be a meticulously planned heist, a police spokesman said.
Four bandits gained entrance to the boutique around 5:15 p.m. on Thursday, with three of the thieves disguised as women. They then produced handguns, corralled the staff into a corner and demanded all the store’s merchandise, according to police.
Robbers called several of the employees by name and knew secret storage units for jewels. Police said they did not know how the bandits fled.
“We have no clues,” said the spokesman. “We are at the beginning of the investigation.”
In a statement, Harry Winston said, “We are cooperating with the authorities in their investigation. Our first concern is the well-being of our employees.”
The heist comes just over a year after a similar raid on the same Harry Winston store on the Avenue Montaigne. Oct. 6, 2007, armed thieves made off with more than $25 million in Winston baubles. That robbery was considered the most spectacular in France since the 2004 heist of about $15 million worth of diamonds from Chopard during the Biennale des Antiquaires. Police have yet to resolve that crime.
An elite special police squad that investigates serious crimes had been put on the case, according to police.
Jewelry robberies have become more daring in France and across Europe recently. Over the last five years, a Serbian gang, known to authorities as the Pink Panthers, has carried out some 110 heists for a haul of more than $125 million.
Police here said they had no evidence that the Pink Panthers were linked to the Harry Winston robbery. In the past, the Pink Panthers have mostly operated in the French provinces, including the Riviera.
Jewelers in Paris operate tight security already. Cartier said it would not increase security in the wake of the Winston theft. “We already have maximal security,” said a spokeswoman.