Paris police hunt for jewels, thieves after Ritz Hotel robbery

Above, a valet waits outside the Ritz Hotel in Paris. Police have recovered some jewels stolen from the Ritz Hotel in a multimillion-euro robbery attempt, but are still searching Thursday for two thieves and the rest of the missing luxury merchandise. (AP)
Updated 11 January 2018
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Paris police hunt for jewels, thieves after Ritz Hotel robbery

PARIS: Paris police have recovered some jewels stolen from the Ritz Hotel in a dramatic heist, but are still searching Thursday for two thieves and the rest of the missing luxury merchandise.
The robbery on Wednesday evening raised questions about security in one of the world’s most prestigious neighborhoods, the Place Vendome, whose well-guarded buildings include the Justice Ministry, high-end boutiques and the 19th century Ritz.
Workers cleaned up shattered glass Thursday morning and started to repair damage from the robbery. Otherwise business appeared to be returning to normal at the Ritz, with no significant increase in security.
Three suspects entered the hotel through an unmarked side door, smashed display cases and threw bags of goods out a window to at least two accomplices outside, according to a police official.
The three inside were then blocked when they tried to flee through another door, and soon arrested, the official said.
The accomplices outside fled, one on a motorcycle and another in a car. The motorcyclist dropped a bag with jewels and hatchets when his motorcycle hit a pedestrian during his escape, the official said. The pedestrian was lightly injured, said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about an ongoing investigation.
Other jewels were found scattered amid the debris of the shattered display cases during overnight cleanup efforts, the official told The Associated Press.
The overall value of the jewels on display was about €4.5 million, and authorities were working Thursday with the jewelers to determine how many items are still missing and their value, the official said.
Another police official said some of the thieves apparently had guns. Two people inside the hotel hid from the thieves and alerted police, the official said.
Patrons at the hotel’s renowned Hemingway Bar described panic as the thieves entered the hushed environment of the Ritz, where rooms start at €1,000 a night.
Several high-end Paris jewelry stores have been targets of dramatic robberies in recent years, including Cartier, Harry Winston and Chopard. Kim Kardashian West said she lost millions of dollars’ worth of jewelry when she was robbed at gunpoint in a Paris apartment in October 2016.
The Ritz was an especially luxurious target. The hotel has housed such famous names as Ernest Hemingway and Coco Chanel. It was the last place Princess Diana stayed before her fatal car crash in a Paris tunnel, and hosts elite guests from around the world who prize the refined neighborhood.


French yellow vests protest in Paris amid tighter security

Updated 21 min 27 sec ago
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French yellow vests protest in Paris amid tighter security

  • The Champs-Elysees was almost empty Saturday except for a huge police presence
  • Paris police detained 51 people by early afternoon, issued 29 fines and conducted 4,688 “preventive checks” on protesters entering the capital

PARIS: Thousands of French yellow vest demonstrators were marching through Paris on Saturday as authorities enforced bans on protests in certain areas and displayed enhanced security measures to avoid a repeat of last week’s riots in the capital.
The crowd gathered peacefully Saturday at Denfert-Rochereau Square in southern Paris and then headed north. The protesters are expected to finish Saturday’s march in the tourist-heavy neighborhood of Montmartre around its signature monument, the hilltop Sacre-Coeur Cathedral.
French authorities have banned protests from the Champs-Elysees Avenue in Paris and the central neighborhoods of several other cities including Bordeaux, Toulouse, Marseille and Nice in the south, and Rouen in western France.
The Champs-Elysees was almost empty Saturday except for a huge police presence. Scores of shops were looted and ransacked last weekend, and some were set on fire by protesters. Fear of more violence certainly kept tourists away, and police shut down the Champs-Elysees subway stations as a precaution.
Paris police detained 51 people by early afternoon, issued 29 fines and conducted 4,688 “preventive checks” on protesters entering the capital.
In Nice, police dispersed a few hundred protesters who gathered on a central plaza. The city was placed under high security measures as Chinese President Xi Jinping was expected to stay overnight on Sunday as part of his state visit to France.
The new Paris police chief, Didier Lallement, who took charge following the destruction wrought by last week’s protests, said specific police units have been created to react faster to any violence.
About 6,000 police officers were deployed in the capital on Saturday and two drones were helping to monitor the demonstrations. French authorities also deployed soldiers to protect sensitive sites, allowing police forces to focus on maintaining order during the protests.
President Emmanuel Macron on Friday dismissed criticism from opposition leaders regarding the involvement of the military, saying they are not taking over police duties.
“Those trying to scare people, or to scare themselves, are wrong,” he said in Brussels.
Christelle Camus, a yellow vest protester from a southern suburb of Paris, called using French soldiers to help ensure security “a great nonsense.”
“Since when do soldiers face a population? We are here in France. You would say that we are here in (North) Korea or in China. I never saw something like this,” she said.
Last week’s surge in violence came as support for the 4-month-old anti-government yellow vest movement has been dwindling, mostly as a reaction to the riots by some protesters.
The protests started in November to oppose fuel tax hikes but have expanded into a broader rejection of Macron’s economic policies, which protesters say favor businesses and the wealthy over ordinary French workers. Macron countered by dropping the fuel tax hike and holding months of discussions with the public on France’s stagnant wages, high taxes and high unemployment.
The yellow vest movement was named after the fluorescent garments that French motorists must carry in their vehicles for emergencies.