The news of Kim Kardashian West's harrowing theft in Paris at a luxurious apartment in the Eighth Arrondissement, - which resulted not only in raw nerves but the alleged loss of $10 million USD worth of jewelry - has left many to question just how a group of armed thieves could have pulled off such a daring job given the reality star's well-documented security detail which rivals that of a head-of-state?
Laurent Riquart, a spokesman for the investigative unit of the Paris police, said the men were part of a group of about five people who were clad in police uniforms with balaclavas and gloves that forced the concierge to tell them where Kardashian West was staying before tying his hands and proceeding to storm the V.I.P. residence and engaging in the robbery before separating on foot and on bikes.
Although they reportedly only spoke English, Kardashian made out the word "ring" and recognized that they were looking for the specific ring that she had been given by Kanye West which is 20-carat emerald cut diamond ring.
In the hours since the theft, Kardashian West and her husband, Kanye West, returned to New York City with 5-6 SUVs and 15-20 bodyguards in tow.
While initial speculation has centered on an "inside job" of sorts - where members of her security detail/hotel staff coordinated with the robbers to pinpoint the precise moment she would be alone - it remains to be seen just who was responsible.
However, one can't help but question if one of Europe's most well-documented and notorious set of thieves, the Pink Panthers, had a hand in the robbery?
Known for their usage of costumes and a level of sophistication it would take to rob someone as famous as Kim Kardashian West, the police would be wise to knock on anyone's door with a known connection to the group.
According to CBS News, the Pink Panthers - who derive their name from the series of Peter Sellers movies of the same title - are credited as being “the largest, most successful gang of diamond thieves in the world with over 370 heists worth $500 million."
Ron Noble, Secretary general of INTERPOL, the global police organization based in Lyon, France, echoes their reporting, saying, "I'd say that they are the most notorious, organized crime group that I've been involved in investigating in my life. The problem is that they've become legendary because they are so good in their planning and their execution of robberies."
The specific job that earned the Pink Panthers their moniker stemmed from something that Peter Sellers' Inspector Jacques Clouseau character encounters in the fourth movie in the franchise.
The real life counterpart centered on two men who managed to steal $14 million worth of gems from The Graff flagship store - including several yellow diamonds and a rare blue diamond ring. It was Britain's most costly robbery to that date. Two months later, Scotland Yard tracked down one of the thieves who was holed up in a London flat with his girlfriend who had hidden the ring inside a jar of cold cream. Soon after, tabloids made the connection to The Return Of the Pink Panther.
In 2004 in Tokyo, Pink Panthers wearing wigs entered luxury shops - including the Le Supre-Diamant Couture de Maki - immobilized clerks with pepper spray and made off with diamonds, a tiara, and the Comtesse de Vendome necklace containing a hundred-and-twenty-five-carat diamond that at the time was worth $30 million USD.
The New Yorker referred to the Tokyo exploits as, "the greatest robbery in the history of Japan."
Much like people have speculated that Kardashian West was the victim of an inside job, the police, working with Interpol, narrowed in on the possibility of the Tokyo incident being an inside job as well.
In 2005, a Panther team, dressed in flower-print shirts, raided Julian, a jewelry store in Saint-Tropez. The heist, which took place in broad daylight, found the thieves dashing away and escaping in a waiting speedboat as if a scene out of a James Bond film.
"From the time they enter the door until they break all the glass in the cases, take the jewelry, and are out in less than 30 seconds," says Noble. "And then they have a getaway plan. Within a matter of hours, they're in another country. That's their classic MO."
While the Panthers had engaged in tactics in the past including ramming shopping carts packed with concrete into shop facades to gain entry, their Dubai-based plan in 2007 involved two Audi sedans crashing through the facade of the Wafi Mall while shoppers gazed down from the balcony. In a matter of minutes, thieves made off with $3.4 million USD worth of merchandise.
In 2008, a group of armed and masked Panthers hit the E. G. Bührle Collection in Zurich and made off with Monet's Poppies Near Vétheuil, van Gogh's Blossoming Chestnut Branches, Degas' Count Lepic and His Daughters and Cezanne's Boy in a Red Vest.
It was the largest art robbery in European history.
In response, Interpol created the Pink Panther Working Group. For the first time global police forces were able to share and spread their information.
If there were one common attribute of a Pink Panther robbery, it's that they know exactly where to go and exactly what to do.
Despite the high-profile and dangerous nature of their exploits, the Pink Panthers have remained relatively free of violence despite brandishing weapons and using motor vehicles like battering rams.
In 2012, a policeman was wounded during a chase in Greece after two men and a woman who had been surveilling the jewelry store aroused the suspicion of a police patrol who noticed their phony wigs. All suspects were later arrested.
“We have mutual respect for each other,” George Papasifakis, a YDEZI deputy involved in the arrest, told VICE. “We ‘appreciate’ the way they work—their organization, speed, and their skill at evading us. But when we catch them, they too admit that we do a good job.”
Although the Pink Panthers have become a worldwide faction of thieves, their origins begin during the Bosnian Wars while fighting as allies against the Muslims as part of the "Arkan Tigers," a paramilitary group controlled by Serbian career criminal Željko Ražnatović,
When U.N. sanctions halted the flow of products into the country, groups of soldiers became professional smugglers. What started as using mountainous routes to move food, soap or gasoline soon became a path for diamonds.
"The core were fighters during the war," Noble says. "Paramilitary training. Very organized, very disciplined and ruthless. And were the ones who started it back in '94, '95, '96."
"The 1990s were an ideal time for creating criminals in the Balkans," said Dobrivoje Radovanovic, a Belgrade criminologist. "There became a breed of world-class criminals."
Unlike other criminal factions that rely on gang infrastructure so that everyone falls in line and follows orders, the Pink Panthers take and execute jobs as they see fit.
"There's no Al Capone, or John Gotti at the top of the organized crime groups like classic or traditional organized crime," says Noble.
What's of particular note is the similarities between Kardashian West's ordeal and the Pink Panthers' MO in the past.
In many instances, they utilized uniforms and escaped on bicycles and have been documented as wearing disguises ranging from golf ensembles to that of Hawaiian tourists or workmen. Additionally, The Guardian has reported that the Panthers have been known to escape by "bicycle depending on the location."
As part of that same report, The Guardian got close to one Panther who called himself, "Novak."
"There are 'no victims to what we do', Novak said. "We scare people but we do not hurt them. We only take expensive things from rich people."
That rationale seems to suggest that they are unafraid of targeting specific individuals no matter how high-profile they are.
Planning and executing a robbery is in fact the easy part of the equation - especially when the merchandise in question belongs to someone as famous as Kim Kardashian West, Thus, the role of the "fence" - the entity that often profits 30-40 percent off the stolen item's value by "washing" it and reintroducing it into the world for profit - is of vital importance.
In 2015, four men were arrested in a Vienna hotel with €500,000 worth of luxury watches and jewelry which had been stolen in a robbery in Montreux, Switzerland. But the real coup for police was that these were not the robbers; rather, they were the middlemen.
"This is the first time in Austria that we have managed to identify and arrest members of the Pink Panthers redistribution channel," Ewald Ebner from the Federal Criminal Police Office said at a press conference.
While details continue to emerge, officials believe the crime was committed by a “highly organized” gang who had done a great deal of planning before the raid. Although it could have been executed by any number of unsavory characters, the Pink Panthers should be the chief suspects.