All jewels stolen in Ritz Paris heist recovered: Source

French police officers working at the scene of a burglary at the rear staff entrance of the Ritz hotel in Paris, on Jan 10, 2018.
French police officers working at the scene of a burglary at the rear staff entrance of the Ritz hotel in Paris, on Jan 10, 2018.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

PARIS (AFP) - All the jewels stolen from shops in Paris’ landmark Ritz hotel have been recovered, a source close to the case said on Thursday (Jan 11). The gems and watches stolen were thought to be worth over €4 million (S$6.37 million).

Some of the loot was recovered on Wednesday (Jan 10) after the arrest of three of the thieves as they tried to flee the hotel and the rest was in a “bag seized yesterday by police,” the source said. 

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.

The three men are from the Seine-Saint-Denis area north of Paris, and are "well known (to) 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 (1730 GMT).

 

A police team in charge of patrolling the square - home to some of Paris' 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.

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 Ms 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 €9 million.

One of the robbers, 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.

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

The ring has yet to be recovered.