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11.3.11


French investigators have found jewels valued at $25 million hidden in a Paris rain sewer — part of the spectacular 2008 heist from luxury jeweler Harry Winston's Paris boutique.

Nineteen rings and three sets of earrings — one pair valued at $19.5 million — were dug up from a drain at a house in the working class Paris suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis, police said, confirming a report on Europe-1 radio.

The jewels were hidden in a plastic container set in a cement mold inside the sewer, police said. The house belonged to one of the nine people charged in the heist. The bold Harry Winston robbery on December 5, 2008, netted the thieves — some dressed as women and wearing wigs — gems and bejeweled watches worth up to $118.1 million, police said. Recently, police have set the figure at $85 million.

The Harry Winston boutique is on a street off Paris' famed Champs-Elysees Avenue dotted with fashion houses and fashionable cafes. The robbery, carried out while Christmas shoppers strolled outside, was among the most audacious in France in recent memory.

It took the thieves just 15 minutes to complete the robbery, despite the streets outside being bustling with Christmas shoppers.

Some stolen rings, necklaces and watches were recovered when police rounded up 25 people in a June 2009 sweep and eventually charged nine of them. After first suspecting Serbian mobsters, police soon narrowed their search to criminal gangs in Paris suburbs.


French media say no further arrests have been made although those already in jail have been questioned again.

Among those charged was the heist's suspected mastermind, who had been sentenced to 15 years in prison in a drug trafficking case. Police found stolen jewelry and $1.1 million at this house.

A guard at the Harry Winston boutique put police on the trail of the suspects. When investigators learned that an Israeli was expected in Paris to buy some of the stolen jewels, police moved in to make the arrests.

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