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The Pink Panther Heists

The venerable Harry Winston’s in Paris was robbed earlier this month. The robbers are said to be part of a worldwide network, nicknamed The Pink Panthers in honor of the movie and character of the same name:

As the second hand ticked, four men “three disguised as women with long blond tresses, sunglasses and winter scarves” stood in front of an intercom and demurely requested to enter the fabled Harry Winston jewelry store on Avenue Montaigne. It was just before closing time on a chilly evening along this golden triangle of boutiques that includes Dior, Chanel and Gucci, the ornate facades and trees resplendent with Christmas lights.

Buzzed in, the men rolled a small valise on wheels into the hushed inner refuge. Then they pulled out a hand grenade and a .357 Magnum. As Parisians strolled unawares past the store’s wrought-iron gates, the robbers smashed display cases and barked out orders and the names of some of the Harry Winston employees. They spoke French with strong Slavic accents.

There was no time for the police from a nearby station in the luxury district to rush over. In less than 15 minutes the diamond thieves were gone, roaring away in a waiting car through the 5:30 p.m. twilight on Dec. 4 with sacks of emeralds, rubies and chunky diamonds the size of tiny bird eggs valued at more than 80 million euros, or $105 million.

The robbers may not have been as suave as celluloid jewels thieves with the charm of David Niven (a k a the debonair phantom bandit, Sir Charles Litton) but the meticulous planning, swift execution and creative style raised suspicion that the Harry Winston heist was the handiwork of a loose global network of battle-hardened, ex-soldiers and their relatives from the former Yugoslavia.

Investigators, marveling at the gang’s ingenuity, have dubbed this unlikely network the Pink Panthers. The parallels between film and reality are perhaps best summed up in zee accent and words of the bumbling Inspector Clouseau, himself from the original 1963 “The Pink Panther”.

Its stories like these that just fascinate me…real life events that parallel scenes from the big screen. The planning, ingenuity, and innovation that these crooks demonstrate is nothing short of impressive.

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