BEIRUT: A man stole $250,000 worth of jewelry from the Phoenicia Hotel’s high-end boutique Harry Khachwajian Wednesday morning.
The incident at the Phoenicia, Beirut’s iconic hotel located by the sea in Downtown’s Ain al-Mreisseh neighborhood, was the latest in a string of jewelry thefts security sources said are likely tied to the same man.
Clear footage from Harry Khachwajian’s shop captured a color image of the suspect with dark gelled hair, wearing an off-white collared shirt and blue jacket and sporting a well-groomed goatee.
An attendant at the shop described the suspect as overweight. He gave the appearance of being well-to-do and had asked to look at some of the shop's merchandise, security sources said.
After attending to the suspect, he asked to see more pieces. While alone, the suspect snatched three of the jewelry-maker Khachwajian's masterpieces -- two braclets and a ring -- from the counter and left the shop.
The man was caught on CCTV footage and the police have circulated a notice seeking the public’s help in identifying him.
Thursday at noon, an Internal Security Forces officer was still taking statements from the shop owners and managers, who appeared distraught over the incident.
Harry Khachwajian specializes in lavish custom-made jewelry from precious gems like diamonds, aquamarine, gold and rubies. Most of the upscale boutiques at the hotel occupy indoor spaces that cannot be accessed unless a patron enters through metal detectors and security located at Phoenicia’s main entrances. The jewelers have a second boutique inside the Pheonicia, but the suspect targeted the larger boutique located within a shopping arcade accessible from outside the hotel.
Thursday morning, spokespeople from the hotel had not heard of the robbery and were surprised such an incident could have occurred with hotel security on high alert.
Security sources suspect the same man is involved in seven similar incidents of theft that have taken place over the past six months. The Jewelers Syndicate, on high alert since the string of robberies began, has been recording each incident and the theft of a quarter-million in jewelry from Harry Khachwajian was largest so far recorded. The same man allegedly snatched precious jewels from boutiques around Hamra, Ashrafieh and Downtown.