The Story of a Royal Burglar. Is it possible to protect precious goods?



There was a time when in the Italian Riviera the robberies of a gentleman thief were commonplace in local media. He had intelligence, charm and good manners and never used physical force to steal. His name was Renato (René) Rinino but he preferred to be called the “Arsène Lupin” of the Italian Riviera since this beautiful region was for several years the scenario of his criminal enterprise.

One day this burglar decided to internationalize his crimes and in February 1994 stole 50.000 pounds worth of jewellery from Prince Charles’s private residence, the St. James Palace. The booty included several watches, a pair of Fabergé cufflinks, some tie pins, two Cartier precious boxes, five brooches, but above all, it seems, some private letters between the Prince and Mrs Camilla Parker-Bowles. At this time, Prince Charles was married to Lady Diana and we can easily understand that this material was a source of embarrassment for the Royal Family…

After three years from the date of the theft, according to the Italian law, Mr Rinino was no longer prosecutable and he wished to hand back everything directly to the Prince without asking any payment except a handshake. And so, the jewels and the letters were handed over by the Italian Authorities to Prince Charles but unfortunately, the famous thief never met Prince Charles, though it seems that he received a personal thanks from him.

Nowadays, the time of gentlemen thieves is over and probably anybody would have the same luck to have his stolen jewels returned. Recently, I was remembering this phantasmagoric story with some friends and I was wondering about the precautions and measures that we can take to protect our precious goods and in particular jewellery.