Paris police recover some jewels from $6m Ritz heist

PARIS • French police have recovered some of the jewels worth more than €4 million (S$6.4 million) looted from the Ritz hotel in central Paris, a police source said yesterday, as officers hunt for two robbers who remain on the run.

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 way they came in, with bags of gems and watches.

But they came up against locked doors.

"Obviously there is a security system and an alarm in this type of establishment," a police source said.

Part of the loot was recovered after being scattered during the arrest of the three suspects, while more jewels and watches were found in a bag dropped by one of the two robbers who got away, another source added, without being able to give an estimate for the value of the goods retrieved.

The three men arrested 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 suspects were wearing gloves and balaclavas and carrying handguns as well as hatchets, police sources said. One of the two on the run fled by car. The other made his getaway on a motorbike.

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.

Although security in the neighbourhood was beefed up in 2014, 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.

The hotel reopened its palatial doors to guests a year and half ago, after nearly four years of renovations and a massive fire.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 12, 2018, with the headline 'Paris police recover some jewels from $6m Ritz heist'. Print Edition | Subscribe