July 28, 2013

Thieves steal $53 million worth of jewels in France

The crime in Cannes follows recent jail escapes by members of the notorious 'Pink Panther' jewel thief gang.

The Associated Press

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A police officer stands in front of the Carlton Intercontinental Hotel in Cannes, southern France, where $53 million worth of jewels was stolen Sunday.

The Associated Press

Sazonoff said it is normal for robbers to gravitate to a place like Cannes, whose glimmering harbor and glamorous film festival attract the world's rich and famous. "Why do thieves target Cannes? It's simple ... On the Cote d'Azur, it's where the monied people flow," he said.

Sazonoff also said police would likely probe whether Sunday's heist is linked to recent jail escapes by alleged members of the Pink Panther jewel thief gang.

On Thursday, gang member Milan Poparic escaped his Swiss prison after accomplices rammed a gate and overpowered guards with bursts from their AK-47s, police said.

Police say the Pink Panther network's members are prime suspects in a series of daring thefts. According to Interpol, the group has targeted luxury watch and jewelry stores in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the United States since 1999.

Poparic is the third member of the Pink Panthers to escape from a Swiss prison in as many months, according to Vaud police.

"The brazen drama of it is their style... The possibility of the reemergence of the Pink Panther gang is very troubling and taken seriously by law enforcement worldwide," Sazonoff said. "The theft of high value diamonds is exactly what they do, so it's not a great leap to assume they are on the warpath again. They are a crime wave waiting to happen."

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