Cannes jewellery heist 'worth about $172 million'

CANNES (AFP) - A spectacular diamond heist in the French resort of Cannes has been valued at US$136 million (S$172 million), prosecutors said on Monday, making it one of the world's biggest jewellery thefts.

Authorities had initially estimated the robbery - which took place in the luxury Carlton Hotel on Sunday in broad daylight - was worth around 40 million euros.

The brazen robbery saw an armed man walked into the hotel through the main entrance undisturbed by security staff, and steal jewels that were part of an exhibition by a jewellery house owned by Lev Leviev, an Israeli billionaire businessman.

The theft is roughly as big as the world's largest ever haul of jewellery, valued at around 100 millions euros, which took place in Belgium in 2003.

It is also France's biggest diamond heist, eclipsing a 2008 incident when three men stole almost every piece on display at a jewellery exhibition in Paris, a theft valued at 85 million euros (S$143 million).

"It all happened very quickly and without any violence", the prosecutor's office said on Sunday about the Cannes robbery.

The office said the robber escaped with a briefcase containing jewels and watches encrusted with diamonds.

Police said they had not been alerted that the exhibition was taking place, which while not a legal requirement would ordinarily be standard procedure for luxury hotels such as the Carlton.

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