PARIS — As the Chopard store on Place Vendôme remained shuttered Monday after a $9.2 million heist during the weekend, it was business as usual for neighboring jewelers on France’s Pentecost holiday, albeit with heightened security.
A lone man, who passed himself off as a customer to get through Chopard’s security door, raided the store Saturday afternoon, stealing jewels worth up to 6.5 million euros, or $9.2 million at current exchange, according to French police.
The smartly dressed man, likely in his 50s, threatened staff with a gun and ordered them to give him jewels from the window display. However, he didn’t take the whole contents of the shop windows.
While most jewelry stores on Place Vendôme, which also houses the Ritz hotel and France’s Ministry of Justice, opened for business Monday — a public holiday in France — it was obvious security in the area had been stepped up, as security guards monitored the square amid visiting tourists.
Some stores, notably Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, placed two security guards behind their double security doors. Compagnie FinancièreRichemont, their Swiss-based parent company, wasn’t immediately available to comment whether additional security measures are being taken.
As French police continue their inquiries into the heist, it’s not yet clear how a lone man posing as a customer managed to outwit the tight security measures, including closed-circuit cameras, deployed by jewelers in the area.
Officials of the Swiss-based Chopard, which makes watches and jewels worn by movie stars at high-profile events and has branches in most world capitals, weren’t available for comment.
On Monday, its window display was empty, save for three handbags.
The heist took place when the city center was packed with shoppers and tourists. It comes after a gang of armed men stole gems worth 85 million euros, or $107 million, from jewellers Harry Winston in Paris last December, and is the latest in a series of increasingly daring jewelry robberies in France and Europe.
It’s unclear whether the Chopard robbery is linked to the so-called “Pink Panthers” international gang of jewelry thieves, who have bagged loot worth up to $200 million in an estimated 110 attacks on luxury stores in around 20 countries since their first robbery in London’s exclusive Mayfair district in 2003. Two key members of the gang were arrested in Paris last month.
French police said the investigation of the Chopard robbery is still ongoing and declined to provide further details.
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