(FILES) This file photo taken at the Rue Tronchet, near Madeleine, central Paris, on October 3, 2016 shows journalists working as police officers stand guard at the entrance to a hotel residence, where US reality television star Kim Kardashian was robbed at gunpoint by assailants disguised as police who made off with millions, mainly in jewellery. 16 people were arrested over Kardashian Paris robbery according police source, AFP reported on January 9, 2017. Kardashian was tied up and robbed of jewellery worth around nine million euros ($9.5 million) when a gang of masked men burst into the luxury Paris residence where she was staying during Fashion Week in October. / AFP PHOTO / Thomas SAMSON
French police suspect that a 72-year-old convicted cocaine dealer was among five masked gunmen who broke into Kim Kardashian’s apartment and robbed her of jewels worth millions last year, a source close to the probe said Wednesday.
Pierre B. — nicknamed “Pierrot” — was arrested Monday at a villa on the Riviera in a series of coordinated raids in Paris and the south of the country over the October 3 robbery.
He was convicted of cocaine trafficking in 2006 and had appeared on the police’s radar “from time to time” since over his links to criminal gangs in southern France, the source said.
A 60-year-old is also in custody and suspected of being among the five armed men who took part in the stunning heist at a luxury apartment in central Paris, when thieves made off with jewellery worth around nine million euros ($9.5 million).
Investigators say all five suspected robbers are in custody as well as the suspected mastermind of the break-in.
Three of the 17 arrested so far were released Wednesday, a legal source said.
They include a chauffeur, who drove Kardashian during her Paris stay, whose arrest led to suspicions that the gang had inside information on the US reality star’s movements.
– Cash, no jewels found –
The driver’s brother remains in custody on suspicion of tipping off the others that her bodyguard Pascal Duvier was absent on the night of the robbery and giving them details about her residence.
Duvier was not with Kardashian because he was providing security for her sister Kourtney at a Paris nightclub. He no longer works for the family.
Police tracked down the suspects after finding DNA at the crime scene which led to a surveillance operation on the suspects.
A police source said that nearly all those arrested were known for organised crime. They included three women, including a 65-year-old.
The armed and masked men wearing police uniforms burst into Kardashian’s residence in the chic Madeleine area of the capital where the 36-year-old and her entourage were staying during Paris Fashion Week.
Kardashian was tied up and locked in the bathroom. The thieves, whose booty included a ring worth around four million euros, fled the scene on bicycle or on foot.
The star’s 30,000 euro diamond necklace was found in the street by a passer-by hours after the heist.
Searches have turned up 200,000 euros in cash, but none of the other jewels have been recovered, investigators say.
The nine million euro haul was the biggest from an individual in France in two decades. It also generated more unwanted publicity for Paris, which has seen its image damaged by major terror attacks in 2015 and last year. Luxury hotel bookings and foreign tourist arrivals in France are both down.
The biggest French jewellery heist ever occurred in July 2013, when robbers attacked an exhibition of “Extraordinary Diamonds” at the Carlton hotel in Cannes and made off with an estimated 103 million euros in jewels.
Kardashian, the world’s highest paid reality television star, harnessed the power of social media to rise to fame, with nearly 50 million followers on Twitter and 90 million on Instagram.