Cannes: Million-dollar jewel theft from hotel room

The new film from Emily Watson and Sofia Coppola debuted on the day of the heist. Picture: Getty
The new film from Emily Watson and Sofia Coppola debuted on the day of the heist. Picture: Getty
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Thieves ripped a safe from the wall of a hotel room near the Cannes Film Festival and made off with jewellery worth about $1 million (£655,000), in a brazen late-night burglary.

The heist took place just hours after the screening of a film about break-ins at the homes of Hollywood celebrities, French officials said yesterday.

The apparently well-planned robbery at the Novotel hotel in Cannes took place in the room of a representative of Chopard, the Swiss-based watch and jewellery maker and festival sponsor, which was hosting a gala event in a more luxurious hotel at about the same time, officials said.

The jewellery was “very probably” in the Novotel in connection with the festival, said Commander Bernard Mascarelli, a judicial police spokesman in the nearby city of Nice – although he did not know for whom it might have been intended.

Chopard has loaned jewellery to A-list stars who walk on the festival’s red carpet to a barrage of camera flashes.

Already this year, model Carla Devigne and actress Julianne Moore have posed on the carpet in Chopard gems.

Cmdr Mascarelli said he did not know the exact type of jewellery taken or its exact value. “Numbers have been put forward that we’re still trying to verify, but the figure of $1m… we’re in that range,” he said.

Jean-Michel Caillau, a state prosecutor in nearby Grasse, who is leading an investigation, said early estimates were that the loot could have been worth as much as $1.4m.

He said the theft appeared to have taken place at about 2:30am yesterday – at about the same time as Chopard’s gala was running late at the 5-star Hotel Martinez on the other side of town.

Chopard declined an immediate comment, but scheduled a news conference in Cannes last night. Melissa Levine, a spokeswoman for Accor, the French hospitality giant behind Novotel, also declined to comment.

Dozens of police were involved in the investigation, and patrol vehicles could be seen outside the hotel yesterday afternoon. Authorities were going over hotel surveillance camera footage and questioning potential witnesses who might have seen the culprits.

“It seems pretty unlikely to us that it was just one person,” Cmdr Mascarelli said.

“Apparently this [hotel guest] was someone who was targeted, because it wasn’t someone who had been seeking attention.

“There must have been either inside complicity, or people who were in contact with this person and knew that the person had jewels,” he added.

On Thursday night, Chopard hosted a star-studded gala, and the festival screened Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring – a deadpan drama about celebrity-obsessed teenagers in Los Angeles who break into the homes of Paris Hilton and other stars.

It is based on a true story about high-school pupils who, after seeing on websites when certain stars are expected at a premiere or other event, take the chance to steal valuables from their homes.

The heist also chimes with the 1955 Hitchcock movie To Catch a Thief, which was filmed in Cannes and won an Oscar for cinematography.

In the film, starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly, a retired cat burglar must discover the identity of a copy-cat thief so a wave of Riviera jewel thefts will not be pinnwed on him. Kelly plays the daughter of a suspect.

News of the robbery sent journalists scurrying to the Novotel, a business hotel about a 15-minute walk from Cannes’ seafront promenade.

Chopard has a suite at the Martinez during the festival. The company also manufactures the crystal and gold Palme d’Or trophies awarded each year to the festival’s top film.

Festival organisers would not disclose the Palme d’Or’s whereabouts yesterday, but said it was kept in a safe place.

The festival had no comment on the robbery.