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Continued: No police, easy access: Diamond heist at French Riviera hotel raises questions about security

  • Article by: JAMEY KEATEN , Associated Press
  • Last update: July 30, 2013 - 3:35 PM

"Leviev takes the security of our staff and merchandise very seriously and all reasonable security measures required by our insurers were implemented prior to the robbery taking place," the statement said.

Philippe Vique, an assistant prosecutor in the Riviera town of Grasse, said there was no break-in at the hotel, and the private security guards were not armed. The gunman went in through French doors and exited less than a minute after the holdup, he said. Rami, the union official, said the suspect was not pursued.

Alain Bauer, a leading French criminologist and security expert, said the show's organizer "could have called on the police — that in this specific case would have put armed officers in place."

Bauer, who is currently teaching in Colorado, acknowledged there is a different mindset about the right to bear arms in the European Union and in the United States.

"Between losing several millions of euros and killing someone, Europeans' choice has been that we'd rather lose several million euros," he said by telephone. "The idea that having more firearms creates more security isn't convincing in Europe."

"In this case, it's more a question of disorganization than of weapons," he said.

Police in Cannes haven't drawn any specific links between Cannes and the escape Thursday of Milan Poparic, said to be the third member of the Pink Panther group to break out of a Swiss prison in as many months.

"But the Pink Panthers are known for these brazen acts of rushing into a place, quickly intimidating the people there and getting the loot and making their getaway," said Scott Andrew Selby, co-author of "Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History," about a 2003 heist in Antwerp, Belgium.

For the thieves, France is a place "they're comfortable hitting."

Selby said it's unlikely the bandit was working alone — suggesting he might have had a "scout" to scope out the hotel beforehand, or a getaway driver at the ready, even an adviser to help fence the stolen diamonds later on.

French authorities were poring over video surveillance footage, going back over other jewelry-theft case files and conducting other "standard judicial police work," said Mascarelli by phone.

The Carlton featured in Hitchcock's "To Catch a Thief," which starred Grace Kelly as an heiress and Cary Grant as a reformed burglar chasing a jewel thief. The thief, at least in the Hollywood ending, is caught in the chase.

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