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Allou was charged with armed robbery the same year he was diagnosed with the illness. The essential marrow of life became harder and harder for Allou to grasp. Psychiatric evaluations characterized him as feeling persistent contempt toward the rights, and property, of others. Fortunately for Allou, police had no cause to suspect him of being the Farid whose name was dropped at the burglary.

At p. The security guard took a quick look—silk scarves, long blonde hair, high heels, stockings—and buzzed them in. Shoppers at the Louis Vuitton store across the street informed security about men in drag entering Harry Winston. Another witness, a Cartier salesperson, immediately pegged them as burglars, given their heights and builds, as well as their outlandish outfits.

Still, he shrugged it off when, after using the intercom, they were duly admitted into the building. A hostess greeted the foursome and guided them up the main staircase. Harry Winston customers typically peruse pieces in comfortable sitting rooms appointed with blue velvet and gold accents. Whenever a display case is opened or a jewel handled, the action is verbalized, precisely but quietly. In this case, the cross-dressers did not make it to the private sales rooms. Midway up the stairs, they pulled out weapons, including a hand grenade. Several captives were marshaled to help deactivate alarms and open display cases.

Throughout, they called employees by their names, even stating home addresses—a scare tactic intended to dissuade them from revealing details of the holdup to officials. The robbers had other intel. They knew that a carat diamond solitaire ring had been delivered the day before, and they knew where it was: hidden in a secret compartment at the bottom of the main safe.

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The hoods stuffed the loot into their rolling suitcase. Threatening to detonate the grenade if anyone followed them, they took off with bijous and watches. There are no price tags on any Harry Winston jewels, but the heist was soon revealed to be the costliest in the history of France.

And it took only 20 minutes to execute. If the Panthers were behind the second Harry Winston robbery, it qualified as their biggest, most spectacular coup yet. Either way, the perpetrators made one key blunder: They spoke. Employees testified that the men had Slavic accents—which, alongside the theatricality of their getups, again suggested Panther involvement. Their loss adjuster affiliate in Paris is John Shaw, a detail-oriented Scot with a genial, bemused demeanor.

Shaw did not advertise it in bourgeois dailies like Le Monde or Le Figaro, but rather in Le Parisien, a popular paper in the banlieues. Until the Pinks came along, it was often someone from there. Because the Pinks were the other targets, he also placed ads in Montenegro and Serbia. His firm received a flurry of replies. But then a credible-sounding informant contacted him from Romania.

The caller claimed that the Harry Winston thieves had set up shop in a hotel suite in Bucharest, where they were selling the jewels. French police were skeptical: Who would buy tens of millions of dollars worth of gems in Romania? French investigators secured warrants and busted a group selling stolen jewels in the appointed hotel room. Investigators reviewing the footage were struck by the behavior of one in-house security agent, Mouloud Djennad.

During the second robbery, he had moved about freely and could have easily alerted authorities. Djennad and his girlfriend had recently spent splashy weekends in the French resort town of Deauville, with him paying for everything in cash. That store was in Enghien-les-Bains, which is where police went next. La Divette sells cigars and sharp knives. Most customers come here to use the video lottery terminals or bet on horse races and sporting events. The floor is, nevertheless, covered in ticket stubs and scraps. A multicultural, overwhelmingly male clientele drinks beer or brandy, even early in the morning.

Behind the bar, a garishly made-up waitress in leather pants chews gum with open disdain. It was in this den of gamblers, police soon discovered, that the Harry Winston capers were devised. In the lead-up to the first robbery, Djennad went regularly to a nearby gym in Enghien. A friend named Patrick Chiniah listened intently and reacted unexpectedly. His sister was married to a gangster, he said, someone capable of pulling off the job.

Djennad thought he was kidding, trying to make himself seem important. Doudou was mentally sharp, but his lust for plunder went so far that officials considered him someone for whom imprisonment had lost any rehabilitating potential. Doudou drove a Jaguar and owned several run-down hotel bars in the seedier reaches of Noisy-le-Sec, the suburb that Allou had been coming from when he was arrested for running red lights. After the meeting at La Divette, Doudou filled in his partner in crime, telling him how easy it would be to break into Harry Winston.

Their inside man, Djennad, tried to back out. In talks peppered with argot, Doudou went on about their shared Algerian heritage, about their parents who had slaved away for nothing. The informant provided the names Farid Allou and Doudou Yahiaoui. He took everything. More should be done to catch these guys.

It was a real HELL because my cash and passport were stolen and no one was there to help me. What an harrowing experience. I just want to go home. Never ever gonna visit this shit again. We have a trip planned to Barcelona next month as part of our visits to Tuscany and Spain. We have traveled in Europe and Asia for years with no problems.

Lived in Asia for a few years. As seasoned travelers we are offended by the potential petty crime in Barcelona and may cancel that part of our trip. If enough people stoped going there the situation would approve quickly. Why should I spend my money is a place that harbors criminals.

Sorry, this is not acceptable no matter how great the city of Barcelona may be. Up to the point where I was robbed in Barcelona, I was really enjoying the city. I am well travelled and street wise, but the endless queue of victims at the Nou de la Rambla police station, the countless stories online and the attitude of people on the street watch how people frantically clutch their bags in front of them have changed my mind. Barcelona is NOT safe to visit. There is a total air of complacency about the problem. It is not careless or stupid people who get robbed.

Everyone gets robbed. I asked some local people and they had also been robbed. I paid a lot for my holiday and was prepared to put up with the usual kinds of stresses and small disappointments, but this is not on. Your email address will not be published. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed. Maybe will be the year you finally try an airport hotel? I hate early morning flights. Let me state this loud and clear.

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