World News

Thieves Steal Qatari Jewels in Brazen Theft at Ducal Palace in Venice

Posted January 3, 2018 9:30 p.m. EST

ROME — The Italian news media called it a “movie-worthy heist.” In just a few minutes Wednesday, the last day of an exhibition at the Ducal Palace in Venice, thieves made off with a gold broach and a pair of earrings, easily disarming what had been described as a sophisticated alarm system and then disappearing into the sea of tourists who daily swarm St. Mark’s Square.

The jewels belonged to Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah al-Thani, a member of the Qatari royal family. They were part of his collection of some 270 Indian and Indian-inspired gems and jewels, some dating from the 16th century, according to a news release for the exhibition, “Treasures of the Mughals and the Maharajas,” which opened in September.

The declared value of the stolen items on the customs form was 30,000 euros (about $36,000), but the Italian news media reported that they were most likely worth much more, as much as several million euros. Even so, the foundation that runs the museum told Italian reporters that the jewels were of less historical value than other items in the exhibition.

At least two thieves struck around 10 a.m. in plain view of closed-circuit television cameras. One opened the case, and the other acted as a lookout, Italian news outlets reported.

Detectives were summoned from Rome to examine the crime scene, and Venetian prosecutors opened a file on the theft — for the moment, against persons unknown.

Venice’s police chief, Vito Gagliardi, said it was vital to understand “what went wrong” because the case that protected the jewels “was opened as if it were a little box, while the alarm went off too late,” Gagliardi told the news agency Ansa. The alarm and security systems were sophisticated, but the thieves were able to bypass them, he said, a sign of “advanced technological understanding.”

Marco Odorisio, another Venetian police official, told the Italian news media that the thieves most likely studied the security measures at the palace before they struck.

“We have to determine the weak points” of the security system to see how the theft was carried out, Odorisio said. “There are a lot of pieces to put in order.”