PARIS — It was a shockingly bold crime if only for its target. A home-invasion-style robbery in Paris of one of America’s most well-known women: reality-television star Kim Kardashian. The haul was nothing to sneer at either. The armed assailants made off with jewelry valued at approximately €9 million ($10 million), including a diamond solitaire ring the size of a small glacier that Kim K. is believed to have flashed on Instagram in the days before the crime.
After the robbers had fled into the night, theories abounded about the brazen troupe of bandits behind the heist. Many press outlets initially fingered the Pink Panther gang, an international group of slick jewel thieves composed of ex-soldiers from the Balkans that has been implicated in some of France’s most spectacular heists, including the 1994 hold-up at the posh Carlton Hotel in Cannes, in which masked men made off with tens of millions in diamonds and jewelry.
“All the Pink Panthers have college educations. They speak multiple languages fluently. They all play soccer. They’re athletes. But they blend in. They know how to look like a local,” onetime Pink Panther Palve “Punch” Stanimirovic told The Daily Beast back in October, shortly after the robbery. “That’s why I’m thinking this job with Kardashian is the Pink Panthers. She was an easy target, and you can’t really combat somebody that has a plan. These guys are experts.”
Well, no. But we’ll get to that.
Given the heist’s audacious nature, Stanimirovic’s theory didn’t seem too far off base. On Oct. 3, Kardashian was at L’hôtel de Pourtalès, an exclusive celebrity haunt also known as “No Address France” due to its discreet nature and plain façade, when armed men stormed the residence at around 2:30 a.m. After tying up Kardashian and dumping her in the bathtub, the robbers fled with their loot. Some went on foot, some on bicycles.
However, the seemingly perfectly planned crime has unraveled after a police sweep nabbed some 16 suspects. Moreover, new details about the thieves behind what has been described as one of the city’s most famous armed robberies paint a decidedly more bizarre picture—think classic Hollywood crime and caper films mixed with a dash of slapstick comedy.
According to official police documents as reported in the daily Libération, the perpetrators are not sophisticated bandits from the Balkans after all, but a group of graying career criminals between 64 and 72-years-old that the French media have dubbed the Granddad Gangsters.
Indeed, one of the crooks is aptly known as Omar le Vieux, or “Omar the Old Guy,” who is 60 and whose fingerprints and DNA were said to be found on the cords use to bind Kardashian, and who reportedly sported eyeglasses over his ski mask. Like any good mobster, Omar had a moll at home. In this instance, Libération reports, it was his 70-year-old wife, Christiane, who acted as a sort of secretary for the group by organizing meetings and keeping track of the various phone lines they used to pass information to one another.
Also arrested: another seasoned criminal previously implicated in a drug-smuggling operation, this one with the Sinatra-esque moniker Didier “Blue Eyes” D. The 61-year-old is believed to have links to old Omar and is thought to have assisted him in tying up Kardashian during the robbery.
The Kardashian heist wouldn’t have been Blue Eyes’ first big job. According to The Telegraph, the sexagenarian was slapped with an eight and a half year prison sentence back in 2003 for his part in a famous drug-smuggling case involving Prince Nayef Bin Fawaz al-Shaalan, a grandson of Saudi Arabia’s founding monarch, Abdulaziz.
A third old-timer, whom police identified as 64-year-old Marceau B., is reported to be another longtime associate of Omar the Old Guy and is suspected of having made several runs to Antwerp’s diamond district to dispose of Kardashian’s stolen bling. The aging offender was previously tried in 2016 for attempting to sell stolen jewels and counterfeit money in Antwerp. He was acquitted, however.
Two other key suspects share similar profiles with Omar and Blue Eyes. “Pierrot,” 72, has a history of drug trafficking and armed-robbery offenses, while 64-year-old “Yunice A.” also has a history of hold-ups. In fact, it was Yunice A. who unwittingly played a big part in botching the burglary.
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So what actually happened in the wee hours of Oct. 3, when Kardashian was divested of her prized jewelry?
According to police, it was a friend of the brother of Kardashian’s driver, not the driver himself, who tipped off the crooks about the celebrity’s whereabouts. At around 2:10 a.m., two men, believed to be Omar the Old Guy and Blue Eyes, rolled up in a Peugeot 508 a short distance away from the chic residence. They unloaded bicycles from the vehicle before being met by a third suspect, who had come by night bus. Two others arrived on foot. Once the gang was assembled, the granddads purportedly jumped into action.
The crime itself seemed to go off without a hitch: The men, in “police” vests, held the building’s night concierge at gunpoint and ordered him to bring them to Kardashian’s apartment. Once there, they tied up both the concierge and a terrified Kardashian before ordering her to tell them where the jewelry was and making off with the valuable haul.
However, unlike the smooth jewel thieves in famed heists past, the granddads got a little sloppy.
For instance, they seemed to have overlooked the omnipresent CCTV cameras, which picked up clear images of the bumbling bandits. An assistant to Kardashian reportedly managed to hide in the downstairs power room of the duplex flat, and she called the bodyguard (who was at a club with Kendall Jenner and Kourtney Kardashian) and that eventually got the police into gear. But it was Yunice A. and his less-than-lithe frame that led the cops to a crucial piece of evidence.
As he attempted to flee the scene, the corpulent criminal took a tumble off his getaway bicycle, dropping a piece of the lifted loot—a diamond-encrusted pendant—in the road. The getaway car, meanwhile, sped off without him. A passerby discovered the stolen pendant the next day and turned it over to police, who, you guessed it, found “Yunice A.’s” DNA all over it.
Jean-Yves Liénard, the lawyer representing Omar, told The Daily Beast that his client played a part in the crime, but denies some media reports that he masterminded it, describing him as a “petty criminal.”
“He acknowledges he was there and that he entered her residence,” said Liénard. “He hasn’t blamed any of his accomplices.”
Dismissing reports that the crime was a premeditated heist, Liénard said that the men merely decided to act on a whim after the driver’s brother’s friend passed on the information about Kardashian’s whereabouts.
“It was a crime of opportunity that these guys were not at all prepared for,” he added.
So, was the heist hatched as a final big job before the granddads could slink off into a peaceful retirement? Or was it simply a spur-of-the moment temptation that an unsavory group of old friends just couldn’t pass up?
Suffice it to say, things didn’t go as planned. A hard lesson for this group of ungainly oldsters who were likely hoping their golden years would look a bit less like the prison cells from their past.