Bulgari and Chanel boutiques in European cities targeted in back-to-back thefts

Raids on Paris and Rome stores are just the latest in a long line of heists on luxury fashion brands

The car used to break into the Parisian Chanel boutique was burnt out by thieves, who fled the scene in a second vehicle. AFP
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Professional thieves targeted luxury brands Chanel and Bulgari just hours apart on Monday.

At approximately 5.15am, a gang staged an audacious raid on the Chanel boutique on Avenue Montaigne in Paris, driving an SUV through the front window. While Chanel has yet to disclose the extent of its losses, reports estimate losses range from €6 million to €10 million ($6.45 million to $10.75 million).

Before fleeing in a second vehicle, the four suspects set the first alight, although firefighters were able to bring the blaze under control. No one was hurt in the raid and the store is closed until further notice as police investigate.

On the same day in Rome a gang of thieves broke into the Bulgari store on Via Condotti, making off with jewellery and watches estimated to be worth €500,000.

The gang appear to have used the city's sewers to access a utility room underneath the store. As the Bulgari flagship, the Via Condotti outlet is known for its distinctive tiled floor, which the thieves smashed their way through.

According to the German Press Agency, despite triggering the alarm, the thieves fled the way they came before police arrived. The store is closed until further notice.

These are just the latest raids on big-name brands. On the same street as the Chanel burglary, jeweller Harry Winston was robbed on May 19 this year, when three suspects drove a motorbike into the store and brandished a firearm before making off with jewellery and watches thought to be worth several million euros.

It is not just stores that are targeted, either. In 2016, Kim Kardashian, who was pregnant at the time, was bound and left in the bath by armed raiders who forced the handcuffed concierge to open the door to her apartment. The gang of five made off with jewellery worth $10 million.

In September, meanwhile, French fashion house Balmain had its collection stolen ahead of Paris Fashion Week, forcing creative director Olivier Rousteing and his team to create an entirely new collection in just two weeks.

With leather bags, jewellery and watches selling for substantial sums – a large 2.55 Chanel flap bag, for example, has a ticket price of more than Dh46,000 – high-end brands are a prime target for those looking for a high-value haul. While brands continue to invest in greater security, such as double-door entry systems, reinforced walls and state-of-the-art camera surveillance, the value of goods means they remain vulnerable to attack.

However, continuing raids on jewellery houses and high-end boutiques are changing how cities look. A spate of car attacks on jewellery stores in Place Vendome in Paris, for example, resulted in bollards being positioned across the pavement to block vehicles getting close to the boutiques, while Bond Street in London has pedestrian-only stretches, with the narrow road further tightened to exclude large cars and vans in a bid to keep luxury stores safe.

Updated: June 11, 2024, 11:11 AM