Carlton Hotel in Cannes Leviev posters 370.
(photo credit: Eic Gaillard/Reuters)
Could an escaped Bosnian member of the “Pink Panthers” international
jewel-robbing syndicate be behind the Sunday morning heist of $53 million in
jewels belonging to Soviet-born Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev in France
yesterday? No one has been arrested yet in connection with the crime, but one
likely suspect who has emerged is Milan Poparic, a 24-year-old Bosnian national
who escaped from a Swiss prison last Thursday.
Poparic and inmate Adrian
Albrecht, 52, made their way to freedom after two accomplices with ladders drove
up to the fence of Orbe Prison near the French border and used machine-guns to
keep guards at bay while the two prisoners scaled the fence.
serving a sentence of six years and eight months for the 2009 robbery of a
jewelry store in the Swiss city of Neuchatel. His fellow escapee was in prison
for a series of crimes unrelated to the jewel thieves
According to the Interpol website, the Pink Panthers group is
behind a series of armed robberies of jewelry stores in Europe, the Middle East,
Asia and the United States.
Interpol says the group is a loosely-aligned
network of hundreds of members that have carried out robberies worth more than
$396 million since 1999.
“The Pink Panthers’ methods are daring and
quick,” Interpol says, citing a case in 2007 when members drove two cars into a
shopping mall in Dubai and through the window of a jewelry store, making off
with more than 11m. euros-worth of jewelry in less than a
Interpol says many of the gang members are known to be from the
former Yugoslavia and are spread out across several continents.
the late morning raid on Sunday, a robber wearing gloves and with his face
obscured by a scarf, charged into the Carlton Hotel in Cannes waving an
automatic pistol, and demanded that he be handed over several bags of jewels and
The French Riviera hotel had been housing an
exhibit of Leviev’s diamonds since July 20.
French media reports said the
jewels were worth around $53m., but the company housing the exhibit did not
Asked for a response on Monday, the Leviev group said “KLG
Jewelry LLC/LEVIEV Extraordinary Diamonds was informed of a theft yesterday
morning by an armed robber from its exhibit in the Carlton Hotel in Cannes,
France. The gems were to be on public display until the end of
Company officials are cooperating with local authorities
investigating the loss and are relieved that no one was injured in the
In a “life-imitating-art” aspect of the robbery, the Carlton
was the setting of scenes from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1955 film To Catch a Thief,
which starred Cary Grant as a one-time cat burglar.Reuters contributed
to this report.