Sun, May 19, 2013 - Page 6 News List

Cannes festival rocked by theft, ‘gunfire’

AFP and REUTERS, CANNES, France

Jewelry worth US$1.4 million due to be loaned to stars at the Cannes Film Festival was stolen from a local hotel in a pre-dawn heist on Friday, but the coveted Palme d’Or trophy was safe, officials said.

The robbery took place in the hotel room of a female American employee of Swiss jeweler Chopard as she was out for the evening, police said.

A strongbox containing jewels was ripped out of the wardrobe and carried away, they said.

The public prosecutor for the Cannes region, Jean-Michel Cailliau, said the loss was estimated at US$1.4 million.

However, Chopard downplayed the reported value of the jewels and contradicted police reports that they were intended to be worn by stars at Cannes.

The heist occurred before 5am at the Novotel hotel, which is located about 15 minutes from the festival venue, police said.

The Chopard employee was due to be interviewed by police later on Friday and investigators were trawling through footage from the city’s security cameras to hunt for clues, they said.

Chopard is one of the official sponsors of the festival and one of its stores lies on the palm-fringed beachfront opposite the venue.

The jeweler redesigned the Palme d’Or trophy and each year lends out jewelery to stars for their walk up the red-carpeted steps at the Palais des Festivals.

Actresses at this year’s festival who have donned Chopard jewelry include Julianne Moore, Lana Del Rey, Cindy Crawford, Fan Bingbing (范冰冰) and Blanca Suarez.

Chopard issued a three-paragraph statement saying that it could not give many details because the incident was under investigation.

“We can only let you know that the value of the pieces stolen is far lower than the figures announced in the media,” it said.

An official linked to the festival said the festival’s top award, the Palme d’Or, was safe.

The Palme d’Or features 118g of yellow gold, with a value of more than US$26,000, set in a base of rock crystal.

Also on Friday, there was a scare when a man fired twice in the air as he approached a temporary television studio, sending actors Christoph Waltz and Daniel Auteuil running for cover.

French TV station Canal+ was interviewing Austria’s Oscar-winning Waltz and French actor Auteuil live from a beach-front set before a crowd of spectators when the shots were fired.

There was a brief moment of panic in the crowd around the seafront studio, but no one was hurt as the gun was loaded with blanks. The suspected assailant, who also had a dummy grenade and a switchblade knife, was arrested.

Marcel Authier, in charge of public security in the local Alpes-Maritimes department, told reporters the individual was a 42-year-old man who was “mentally unstable.”

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