French police have launched a major chase after masked robbers put a gun to the head of the US television star Kim Kardashian West and stole an estimated € 10m (£ 8.7 million) dollars in jewelry from her apartment deluxe.
Five men disguised as police stormed the discrete Hôtel de Pourtalès in the 8th district of Paris luxury, where the star was staying, in the early hours of Monday.
Two of the robbers, who wore armbands with the mark of the police, reportedly tied Kardashian West, who was in Paris for fashion week in Paris, and locked her in the bathroom as they ransacked the flat.
The star’s publicist said that although Kardashian West was not beaten, the men had held a gun to my head leaving “badly shaken, but without physical harm.”
After giving a statement to police about her ordeal, Kardashian West, 35, was immediately taken to a waiting private jet at the small Le Bourget airport on the outskirts of Paris to be flown back to the US.
Kardashian West, who is married to the American rapper Kanye West, with whom she has two children, was attacked just before 3am, shortly after she had returned from dinner. Earlier on Sunday she had been photographed at the Balenciaga and Givenchy fashion shows.
Before entering Kardashian West’s apartment, the robbers had tied up the night porter at the Hôtel de Pourtalès, which has nine opulent apartments. Among the jewels stolen was a €4m 15-carat diamond ring given to Kardashian West by her husband, and two smartphones. The robbers were reported to have escaped on bicycles.
West was performing at the Meadow Music and Art festival in New York when he was told of the attack on his wife. He immediately cancelled the set citing a “family emergency” to disappointed fans. The couple’s two children, North, three, and Saint, nine months, were reportedly not in the room at the time of the attack.
The 19th-century Hôtel de Pourtalès on rue Tronchet, in Paris’s chic Madeleine district, is so discreet it is known as No Address, France. Behind the burgundy oak and wrought-iron doors of the neo-Renaissance mansion, constructed for a Swiss banker in 1838 and now a listed building, the luxury apartments redesigned by Philippe Starck, rent for up to €15,000 a night.
The apartments are popular with celebrities, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Mick Jagger and Madonna, not least for their secret entrances enabling stars to slip away from waiting paparazzi outside. But on Monday morning as news of the robbery filtered through the media, dozens of film crews began to set up cameras on the pavement.
A barman on rue Tronchet said he had seen Kardashian West in the area. “There are always stars in there,” he said, pointing to the Hôtel de Pourtalès. “Kim Kardashian has been there for about a week. I’ve seen her coming and going,” he told AFP.
France has experienced some spectacular jewellery heists in recent years. In the biggest, items worth €103m were stolen from the Carlton hotel in Cannes in July 2013.
Police authorities in Paris said they were working hard to identify the robbers, but the high-profile crime comes as the city struggles to overcome a drop in tourism since the series of terrorist shootings and bombings in November 2015. Visitors numbers were down 6.4%this summer, according to the regional tourism board.
The Kardashian West robbery sparked a political spat between the Socialist mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, and the leader of the centre-right opposition party Les Républicains, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet over crime and safety in the capital.
Kosciusko-Morizet said the robbery showed the city’s “lack of reaction to deal with new threats”.
NKM, as she is known in France, expressed concern for Kardashian West and the effect of the attack on tourism. “My thoughts are with Kim because what happened to her is violent and traumatic,” Kosciusko-Morizet said. “And I’m also concerned about the image of Paris.”
She said expensive campaigns aiming to lure visitors back to the city had been overshadowed by the attack. ”All these advertisements are canceled by what happened to Kim Kardashian,” she concluded.
Hidalgo replied: “I condemn the attack Kim Kardashian suffered last night … She has my support and will always be welcome here in Paris. I have full confidence that the police will quickly identify and apprehend the perpetrators.”
She added that the attack “in no way affects the safety of Parisian public spaces … the streets are protected”, and hit back at those using the incident to “create controversy” for political ends.
“This very rare incident, which took place in a private space, does not in any way call into question the work of police officers and security officers of Paris’s public places,” she said.
Calling on politicians from all sides “to act responsibly” between now and France’s presidential election next year, Hidalgo said such criticism was unhelpful as the city struggled to recover from last year’s attacks.
“When everyone’s priority should be to boost the number of people coming [to Paris], using this incident to create controversy could directly hit the tourism sector and its 500,000 employees in the Île-de-France region [around the capital].”
Le Point magazine said that it was “hard to imagine anything worse for Paris’s reputation … already damaged in recent months by [terrorist] attacks, demonstrations and riots”, than the robbery. It cited a series of attacks on rich tourists, including one near the Champs Elysées on Sunday evening when a Qatari man was robbed of a €100,000 watch.
“What with Chinese tourists, Qatari citizens, members of the Saudi royal family and now Kim Kardashian, It will take a miracle to restore Paris’s glamorous reputation,” Le Point wrote.
Kardashian West and her husband are frequent visitors to Paris. In May 2014 they celebrated their marriage with several hundred guests at the Palace of Versailles.