Gunmen in drag steal $100 million in jewelry

December 06, 2008|By New York Times News Service

PARIS -

A band of jewel thieves, some dressed as women, stole diamonds, rings and watches valued at more than $100 million from a Harry Winston boutique in the heart of the city's "golden triangle" of luxury shops, the authorities said yesterday.

The brazen theft occurred Thursday afternoon but was not reported until yesterday. The robbers struck in the holiday season, when jewelry stocks are plentiful.

The police said that at least four men brandishing guns had robbed Harry Winston, which is on a street of shops near the Champs-Elysees that is crowded with high-end boutiques such as Chanel, Dior and Gucci.

About 5:30 p.m. Thursday - near closing time - the thieves entered the shop on Avenue Montagne and confronted 15 employees.

At least two of the robbers wore wigs and women's clothes and an accomplice apparently waited outside as the getaway driver, said Doron Levy, a spokesman for the Union of French Jewelers.

He said the robbers dressed as women because they knew that typically jewelers are more trusting of women and so more likely to admit them.

There was only one customer in the store at the time, and no one was injured and no weapons were fired, said Isabelle Montagne, spokeswoman for the Paris prosecutor's office.

Harry Winston issued a terse, two-sentence statement yesterday from its headquarters in New York, saying that it is cooperating with authorities and that its first concern is its employees.

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