PARIS - A staggering 40 million euro ($53 million) worth of jewels and diamonds were stolen Sunday from the Carlton Intercontinental Hotel in Cannes, in one of Europe's biggest jewelry heists recent years, police said.
The French Riviera hotel was hosting a temporary jewelry exhibit over the summer of the prestigious Leviev diamond house, which is owned by Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev.
A police spokesman said the theft took place around noon in broad daylight, but he could not confirm local media reports that the robber was a single gunman who stuffed a suitcase with the gems. The spokesman spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter on the record.
Several brazen jewelry thefts have taken place this year, including one in Belgium on Feb. 18 that involved some $50 million worth of diamonds.
In that heist, the stones from the global diamond center of Antwerp had been loaded on a plane bound for Zurich when robbers, dressed in dark police clothing and hoods, drove through a hole they had cut in the Brussels Airport fence in two black cars with blue police lights flashing.
They drove onto the tarmac, approached the plane, brandished machine guns, offloaded the diamonds, then left in an operation that barely took five minutes. Later that night, investigators found the charred remains of a van most likely used in the heist.
Authorities have since detained dozens of people and recovered many of the stolen treasure in that operation.
In May, Cannes was struck by two highly publicized jewelry heists during the Cannes Film Festival.
In the first theft, robbers stole about $1 million worth of jewels after ripping a safe from the wall of a hotel room. The jewelry was taken from the Novotel room of an employee of Chopard, the Swiss-based watch and jewelry maker that has loaned bling to A-list stars walking the red carpet at the film festival.
And in the second, thieves outsmarted 80 security guards in an exclusive hotel and made off with a De Grisogono necklace that creators say is worth 2 million euros ($2.6 million.)