Jewelry heist in Cannes fit for a movie

(CBS News) CANNES, France - French police are on the hunt Sunday night for at least one thief who stole $53 million in diamonds and other gemsfrom a posh hotel in the resort town of Cannes on the Riviera.

It happened right under the noses of hotel security, at the luxury Carlton hotel in broad daylight.

At least one armed robber reportedly ran off with a briefcase full of jewels then vanished into the crowds strolling along the promenade.

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There's a reason it feels like something out of a Hollywood movie. The Carlton, on the glittering French Riviera was the setting of Hitchcock's "To Catch a Thief," where Grace Kelly's charms lured Carey Grant's cat burglar.

It's the third time in two months jewel thieves have hit Cannes. The last two robberies were the work of sophisticated gangs, said French journalist Daniel Pageon.

"I'm not talking about somebody knocking on the head of an old lady to pinch her purse. There they are very often organized gangs," Pageon said. "They plan it like a military operation. It's a film scenario so, of course it happens in Cannes."

Intercontinental Carlton Hotel, Cannes, France
A picture shows the Intercontinental Carlton Hotel on March 24, 2009, in Cannes on the French Riviera.
VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images

During this year's famous film festival, robbers ripped a safe out of a hotel room, making off with a million dollars in Chopard jewels meant to add sparkle to Hollywood A-listers.

Thieves also somehow managed to slip security and snatch a necklace worth $2.6 million.

Daniel Pageon
French journalist Daniel Pageon
CBS News

Sunday's brazen theft, the second largest in French history, rivals one in Belgium earlier this year where thieves bagged $50 million dollars in diamonds at the airport.

It also coincides with a three days ago jail break in Switzerland by two alleged members of the notorious "Pink Panther" jewel thief gang. The Eastern Europe network is blamed for high-profile jewelery robberies worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

It's too early to tell whether the "Pink Panther" gang is suspected of Sunday's robbery, but the trail of hot rocks from the Carlton Hotel grows colder by the minute.

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