Jewels stolen from Venice exhibition in brazen daytime heist

One suspect acted as lookout, other took jewels

By LAUREN SAID-MOORHOUSE, CNN, LORENZO D'AGOSTINO, CNN, JAMIE GRAY, CNN
Andrea Merola/AP via CNN

Over 270 pieces of Indian Mughal jewelry dated from the 16th to the 20th century were being shown to the public.

(CNN) - In a plot worthy of a Hollywood heist caper, thieves mingled in with other visitors to an exhibition in Venice on Wednesday before brazenly making off with gems worth millions of euros.

The working theory being developed by investigating officers suggests that at least two people entered the Doge's Palace -- a popular tourist spot in the canal city where a selection of Indian jewelry from the Qatari royal collection was on display to the public, Reuters reported.

One suspect acted as lookout while the other grabbed the jewels from the display case, police believe. They also suggest a larger gang may have been operating with the pair, as the museum's alarm system wasn't triggered until the thieves were making their escape.

Venice police told CNN that the stolen items were a pair of earrings and a brooch made of diamonds, gold and platinum. The pieces -- owned by Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al Thani -- were snatched in the bold daytime robbery on the last day of the exhibit.

"We are certainly dealing with very skilled professionals, who got away with it even though the building and the rooms were kitted out with very advanced technological systems," Venice police commissioner Vito Gagliardi told Reuters.

Gagliardi said the jewels had a customs value of 30,000 euros (around $31,000), but told Reuters that the actual worth is more likely "a few million euros."

A Venice police spokesman told CNN that the stolen pieces were "of great value" but would not provide an exact estimate of their worth.

The spokesperson added that authorities arrived at the scene at 10:17 a.m. (3:17 a.m. ET) on Wednesday after being alerted by the head of security, who told them that "some jewels had gone missing."

In a press release, the Doge's Palace confirmed the theft of "two objects" from the Al Thani Collection. The objects were described as "recently made and of marginal value compared to other jewels of greater historical value."

"Thanks to the timely intervention of the security apparatus operating inside the exhibition halls, and whose definition was shared from the outset with the Venice Police Headquarters, the Civic Museums Foundation was able to provide all the law enforcement agencies the elements necessary for a rapid solution of the ongoing investigation," the statement continued.

The exhibition displayed over 270 pieces of Indian Mughal jewellery from the 16th to the 20th century, according to the Doge's Palace website.

The exhibition closed yesterday on schedule.

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