Jewelry Heist Expert on Why Kim Kardashian's Diamond Theft Was a Perfect Storm
A few hours after returning from a Paris Fashion Week dinner early Monday morning, Kim Kardashian West was tied up and robbed at gunpoint in her hotel room at the exclusive Hôtel de Pourtalès in the city’s 8th arrondissement. The thieves -- reportedly five men disguised as police officers -- made off with an estimated $9 million in jewelry, including a ring, as well as two cell phones and a wallet containing credit cards.
That such a thing could happen to Kardashian West, who is rarely seen without a bodyguard, an assistant and a family member or four, has sent shock waves through Paris. But Scott Andrew Selby, co-author of the definitive book on the 2003 Antwerp heist Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History, said he is “not at all surprised” by the robbery. “She’s very vulnerable as she had very high-ticket items, her whereabouts are reported in the press, and she’s especially active on social media,” he told Billboard by phone on Monday. “She’s basically telling thieves where she is and what she has with her.”
Selby went on to explain why Kardashian West was targeted in Paris, and that she’s unlikely to recover the stolen goods.
Why do you think they targeted her in Paris, and not in Los Angeles or at another of her homes?
This has happened to celebrities and high-net-worth individuals in France many times before. The thing is, jewels and valuables are well-protected. If they are a celebrity, they have a secure home, video feeds, people around them. If it’s a jewelry store, they have all sorts of [protections]. But what you want to do if you’re after valuables is get a soft target. Jewelers all attend prestigious events in France, like Paris Fashion Week and the Cannes Film Festival. Thieves know this is where people with the jewelry congregate, and they are out of their comfort zone.
Were you surprised the hotel didn’t have a procedure in place to handle this? That it had never happened there before?
I’m not surprised at all. The reason the hotel was chosen is because it’s intimate, small and exclusive, a boutique hotel. That has a huge disadvantage to a major five-star hotel, because it’s a small operation, and they’re not going to be equipped to handle something like this. A bigger, more established place would be more likely to have additional procedures in place, such as panic buttons, video, a longer distance to go from entrance to room, etc.
Will the hotel be liable for the loss?
Generally the hotels are responsible if they’ve been negligent in their security, which may or may not be the case there, and that would be under French law. The main battle I imagine would be between whoever insures Kim’s jewelry, and whoever insures the hotel. Lloyds of London insures almost everything like that.
What are the chances the stolen goods will be recovered?
It’s highly unlikely they’ll be recovered. Thieves move quickly -- when they do a job of this nature, they already know what they’ll do with these stones, they’ll already be long gone. What they’ll do is take apart all of the jewelry: the big stones they’ll hold on to, and the smaller pieces they can sell quickly, no problem. As long as you know somebody [to sell to], it’s really easy. Diamonds trade over and over again. They’ll go to Antwerp, and maybe the first buyer knows something’s weird, but by the time it hits the fifth buyer three days later -- odds are it will be in some American’s engagement ring within a year.
The problem with the big stones is that they are recognizable to anybody in the industry, and these stones are especially recognizable because they belonged to a famous person. So you have three choices. Choice one: Stash them for a while until you figure out what to do with them. Choice two: Sell them to a buyer you line up that doesn’t care that they’re stolen; it’s very hard to find somebody like that. Step three: Have a corrupt person in the business change the stones to make them unrecognizable. So what they’ll do is take one big stone and cleave it into two or three smaller stones, polish those and then sell them separately. Or, what they might do is take a medium-sized stone and just polish it slightly so it will no longer have the same characteristics. These big stones, they retain their value. They’re worth a lot.
There’s no point, then, in trying to make a recovery?
Of course the police will try to recover the stones, it’s just highly unlikely.