An armed robber snatched an estimated one million euros ($1.10 million) worth of jewelry from a Chopard store in Paris, in a brazen heist carried out just a few doors away from France's presidential palace.
Speaking to VICE News Friday, a spokesman for the Paris police headquarters confirmed that, "an older individual entered the store a little before midday and was handed the jewels after holding [store assistants] at gunpoint." Police investigating the robbery have not confirmed whether the weapon was real or fake.
According to French radio station Europe 1 — which broke news of the holdup this morning — nothing was broken during the robbery, and no one was hurt.
It is unclear how the man was able to walk into the jewelry store in broad daylight and carrying a gun, in what is one of the most heavily guarded areas of the French capital.
The Chopard store is so close to the Élysée palace — which houses president François Hollande's residence and office — that you can see the French flag floating above the entrance gate from the storefront.
The relative ease of the heist is all the more surprising given the context of the state of national emergency that was declared in the wake of the November 13 terror attacks. The French government introduced heightened security measures in the days after gunmen killed 130 people in and around the French capital.
The police spokesman confirmed that an investigation into the theft was underway, and that the robber was still on the loose Friday afternoon. The value of the stolen property had not been officially assessed, the spokesman noted.
This is not the first incident to raise concerns over the guarding of the Élysée and President Hollande's personal security.
On January 20, officials launched an investigation after security teams spotted a drone briefly flying over the Élysée palace, just two weeks after armed gunmen stormed the Paris offices of satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo, wiping out most of the journal's editorial team.
A few months later, one of the officers from the security unit tasked with protecting the president accidentally discharged his gun in a bathroom of the presidential palace. Reporting on the incident in May, French daily Le Monde noted that the incident had not been flagged to relevant military authorities and the bullet hole was simply patched up with filler.
Speaking to Le Monde shortly after the incident, several members of the Security Group for the Presidency of the Republic (GSPR) had voiced concerns over the safety of the president, and highlighted the "shortcomings" of Hollande's subpar security detail.
The officers interviewed by Le Monde singled out one colleague with a drinking issue, and another who had his weapon taken away as a result of psychological issues but who was later reintegrated into the team. They also bemoaned the lack of appropriate training and concluded by saying that, "the president's safety was not ensured."