The jewels on display routinely catch some unwanted attention. Rami said he can think of four or five other major robberies in his time in Cannes, which appears to be a favorite target this year. In May it was struck by other two highly publicized heists during the Cannes Film Festival.
"For security in a hotel that was housing such a collection, it's more a question that can be asked of the victim — and its insurer — than of police services," said Cmdr. Bernard Mascarelli, head of the judicial police in nearby Nice, whose Bureau for the Repression of Banditry is leading the investigation.
The owner of the collection, Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev, has said little about the theft, but noted in a statement Tuesday that the company was working with police and insurers.
"Leviev takes the security of our staff and merchandise very seriously and all reasonable security measures required by our insurers were implemented prior to the robbery taking place," the statement said.
Philippe Vique, an assistant prosecutor in the Riviera town of Grasse, said there was no break-in at the hotel, and the private security guards were not armed. The gunman went in through French doors and exited less than a minute after the holdup, he said. Rami, the union official, said the suspect was not pursued.
Alain Bauer, a leading French criminologist and security expert, said the show's organizer "could have called on the police — that in this specific case would have put armed officers in place."
Bauer, who is currently teaching in Colorado, acknowledged there is a different mindset about the right to bear arms in the European Union and in the United States.
"Between losing several millions of euros and killing someone, Europeans' choice has been that we'd rather lose several million euros," he said by telephone. "The idea that having more firearms creates more security isn't convincing in Europe."