Jewels thieves hit India show at Doge's Palace in Venice

Mughal brooch, earrings worth several million euros

(ANSA) - Venice, January 3 - Several jewels from the Treasures of the Mughals and Maharajahs show at Venice's Doge's Palace were stolen from a case this morning, police said Wednesday. They are said to be worth several million euros - but very hard to offload on the black market because they are so well known.
    Investigators therefore think the gems in the jewelry may be removed and sold separately.
    The theft was likely carefully planned and the thieves case the premises before carrying it out, judicial sources said.
    Venice prosecutors said they had opened a probe against person or persons unknown.
    The exhibit, on show in the Sala dello Scrutinio, was due to close tonight.
    It brings together, for the first time in Italy, 270 Indian gems and jewels from the 16th to the twentieth centuries, belonging to the Al Thani collection.
    The Doge's Palace, Palazzo Ducale, housed Venetian rulers for over a thousand years until Napoleon did away with the Serenissima Republic.
    Venice Police Chief Vito Gagliardi said experts from Rome had immediately been called.
    "It is indispensable to understand what didn't work properly in the security systems," he said.
    "The glass case was opened up as it if were a tin can while the alarm, if it worked at all, went off late," Gagliardi told reporters.
    The jewelry that was taken is said not to have contained the major pieces in the show.
    Photos of the stolen items have already been sent to London, where their owners are, so that they can be identified and priced.
    According to initial reports, two people broke into the case, one covering the other who actually opened it, police told reporters.
    They were talking on the basis of footage from CCTV cameras, they said.
    The man who broke open the case pocketed a gold brooch and a pair of earrings whose worth has not been exactly established but it said to run into the millions of euros.
    They were "minor works compared to the great body of the exhibition," experts said.
    The alarm went off, police aid, but the thieves were able to make their getaway because of the high number of visitors, melting into the crowds.
    The many rooms of the palace were also understaffed with security guards, police said.
    The show made Venice the first city in Italy to host the renowned exhibition of Indian gems and jewels from the Al Thani Collection. Showcasing over 270 pieces, the exhibition explores five centuries of the jewelled arts made in and inspired by the Indian subcontinent. "Dazzling gems, precious stones and jewels brimming with centuries of history and legend, together with historic and contemporary creations take us on a journey through five centuries of sheer beauty and remarkable craftsmanship charting the glorious tradition of Indian jewellery: from the descendants of Genghis Khan and Tamerlane to the great Maharajas, whose lavish jewellery commissions in the 20th century produced stunning and innovative works from the European jewellery houses," Palazzo Ducale's website said.
    The collection was assembled by Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al Thani, a member of the Qatari royal family.
    The curators of the exhibition are Amin Jaffer, Senior Curator of The Al Thani Collection, and distinguished Italian scholar of East Asian art Gian Carlo Calza. Gabriella Belli is academic director.
    The show remained closed Wednesday afternoon while the Doge's Palace was reopened to visitors.
    A crime-scene investigation team has examined the scene of the robbery while flying squad members are viewing footage from CCTV cameras, police said.
    As soon as the alarm rang the palazzo was shut down in a vain bid to trap the thieves.