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Thieves tunnel into Milan showroom, make off with bags of jewels in brazen heist

Thieves tunnel into Milan showroom, make off with bags of jewels in brazen heist

In a heist worthy of Hollywood treatment, masked thieves entered the offices of a jewelry company through a tunnel they drilled through thick concrete, bypassing security and catching off-guard employees preparing for a weekend VIP showing.
The robbers walked away Sunday morning with bags full of jewels _ gold, platinum, diamonds and rubies, though apparently eschewing pearls, said Damiani SpA CEO Guido Damiani.
His third-generation family-run business caters to the stars from Brad Pitt to Isabella Rosellini to Tilda Swinton _ who wore one of the luxury line's one-of-a-kind diamond bracelets to pick up her Oscar just hours after the robbery.
The losses are being inventoried and Damiani is not issuing estimates. But he discounted a euro5 million (US$7.5 million) figure cited by the Italian media.
The safe normally would have had even more valuable, unique pieces _ but a "significant number" were on loan to stars attending the Oscars, including Swinton, or in Tokyo for the opening of a new boutique, Damiani said Wednesday.
"Luckily, many of these pieces were not in the safe," he said in a telephone interview.
Lead investigator Francesco Messina said the heist was highly professional and that the robbers left few traces. "It will be a long investigation," he said.
The four thieves did not brandish arms, but entered initially under the ruse of representing Italy's powerful financial police, wearing vests identifying them as officials, Messina said.
Wearing faces masks and dark glasses, they forced four showroom employees, a caterer and a cleaning woman into a room, where they were bound after entering the central Milan showroom around 10 a.m. Sunday, Damiani said. One of the Damiani employees was forced to open the safe, but was bound with the others during the theft.
No one was harmed and no clients had yet arrived, Damiani said.
"The timing was planned. They knew that there would be people in the building _ otherwise they would not have been able to get into the safe _ but that it would not be full," Damiani said. "They were in the right place at the right moment. ... But I am confident that they will be found."
Damiani said they had drilled into the basement from a neighboring building through the 1.2-meter-thick (nearly 4-foot-thick) basement walls _ so sturdy that the cellar had been designated a bomb shelter _ gaining cover for the noise from renovation work in the adjacent structure. It was unclear how long they had been working.
"We've heard an account from one woman who heard noise in the early mornings, and had even complained to police. It was probably them," Damiani said.
Because they entered from inside the building, the thieves did not pass armed guards posted at the entrance.
"A guard could have gone up at any minute, and one did go up by chance _ but seconds after they left," Damiani said. "It could have been a drama, so all the better that no one walked in."
The whole operation took about half an hour. A neighbor who grew suspicious after seeing men load bags _ presumably full of jewels _ into a van notified police, Damiani said.
The loss hasn't jolted the company's standing on the Milan Stock Exchange, perhaps because the jewels are insured by Allianz and Lloyds of London. In fact, the shares have risen since news of the theft emerged, from euro1.86 (US$2.80) at Monday's opening to as high as euro2.08 (US$3.13).
While the theft has shaken the jewelry company, Damiani said the fact no one was hurt and that they are insured has allowed them to even marvel at the similarities to some of Hollywood's famed heist films. "Some friends have joked that we should film 'Ocean's 14' at the showroom," he said.


Updated : 2021-05-09 13:04 GMT+08:00