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  • Police outside the luxury Carlton hotel in Cannes, shortly after a major jewelry heist.

    Police outside the luxury Carlton hotel in Cannes, shortly after a major jewelry heist.

    A lone thief brandishing a handgun walked off with an estimated $53 million in jewelry that was being readied to go on exhibition at the famed Carlton Hotel in Cannes, playground to the rich and famous.

    The The theft was the third known jewelry heist in Cannes this year. Even the prestigious Cannes Film Festival isn’t immune to jewelry thieves.

    During the film festivities in May, gems worth nearly $2 million were stolen from a room at the Novotel hotel that had been rented by Chopard, one of the festival’s annual sponsors. The jewels were being loaned out to actresses to wear to red carpet events.

    A diamond necklace worth more than $2 million disappeared from the Hotel Du Cap-Eden-Roc in Cannes during a party. the necklace was owned by De Grisogono, a Swiss firm that had filled the hotel with security guards.

    It’s unknown whether the heists are related, but Cannes has always been a magnet for jewel thieves because of its events and rich clientele.

    In the latest case, Leviev, a diamond company owned by the Russian-Israeli multi-billionaire Lev Leviev, 57, was hosting a jewelry exhibit at the fame hotel, which hosted Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt during the festival.

    Leviev owns diamond mines in Russia, China and Africa and is worth an estimated $1.5 billion, according to Forbes magazine. The company has stores in New York, London and Dubai.

    “The raid took place in broad daylight when there were hundreds of holidaymakers enjoying the sunshine. It could not have been more audacious,” a police source to the Nice Matin newspaper in Nice.

    “The thief took advantage of the crowds and the relaxed Sunday atmosphere – he could easily have had others working with him.”

    Police are conducting a “full and urgent operation” to recover these jewels and apprehend the thieves, but so far no suspects have been arrested or gems recovered in any of the three most recent robberies.

    The hotel was also hit in a 1994 jewelry robbery that left one security guard injured from a gunshot wound.