Kim Kardashian heist suspects talk, but no sign of jewels

Kanye West and Kim Kardashian attending an Off-white fashion show in Paris in September 2016.
Kanye West and Kim Kardashian attending an Off-white fashion show in Paris in September 2016.PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - More than a month after French police arrested the suspected robbers of reality TV star Kim Kardashian, investigators are piecing together what happened - they just have not found the jewels yet.

Ten suspects were charged last month in connection with the hold-up of Kardashian, who was robbed at gunpoint in October of jewellery worth €9 million (S$13 million) while she was staying at a luxury residence for Paris fashion week.

Those arrested in Paris and the south of France include Aomar Ait Khedache, known as "Old Omar", thought to be the ringleader of the gang.

In questioning, the 60-year-old said the prize of the haul - a ring with an 18.88-carat, nearly flawless diamond, was too "identifiable" to sell.

He told investigators he gave the €4 million ring to someone whose identity he refuses to divulge, according to statements from his questioning seen by AFP.

Five men, some wearing jackets with police insignia, held Kardashian at gunpoint on the night of Oct 2, making off with several pieces of gold and diamond jewellery as well as the ring.

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

It remains the only piece to be recovered from the heist.

Khedache told investigators that the other jewellery was dismantled, with the gold melted down into bars.

"There must have been 800 or so grams, worth €25,000 or €28,000," he said, in testimony revealed by Le Monde newspaper last month.

As for the remaining diamonds, a source close to the inquiry told AFP they had probably been sold.

After the robbery, the police quickly turned their focus to Antwerp in Belgium, where another suspect, 64-year-old Marceau Baum-Gartner - known as "Shredded Nose" - went on eight occasions between Oct 7 and Dec 23.

Khedache accompanied him on two of those visits to Antwerp, a jewellery-trading hub.

"It seems that Marceau was having trouble getting rid of the loot during his first trips, and the situation with 'Omar' got tense," the source said.

Unaware that their phones were tapped, Khedache was heard telling Baum-Gartner in November that the ring's sale "was supposed to be done within eight days... it's been a month."

On Dec 5, Khedache gave three of his accomplices an advance on the sale. Three days later, he went once again to Antwerp with Baum-Gartner.

Investigators think most of the pieces were sold during the trip, because several of the suspects started spending freely.

Some bought cars, while Baum-Gartner asked a property agent about buying land on a €100,000 budget.

But most of the gang never saw the colour of the money. On Jan 9, the police arrested 17 people, most of them with ties to organised crime, and the raids turned up a total of €250,000.

Ten suspects have been charged, but only Khedache and Abbas have admitted taking part in the robbery. The eight others deny any involvement.