PARIS — Seventeen people were arrested Monday in France on suspicion of involvement in the robbery of the reality television star Kim Kardashian West during Paris Fashion Week in October, French officials said. And some of them, older men with ties to organized crime, were a generation or two removed from Kardashian West and her husband, Kanye West.
Some of the suspects were in their 50s and 60s, French officials said. The eldest, a man from Grasse in southeastern France, was born during World War II and hit retirement age before anyone had heard of Twitter or Instagram, where Kardashian West has millions of followers.
Many details about the 14 men and three women who were arrested, and about what roles the police think they played in the robbery, have yet to emerge. Under French law, they can be held for questioning for up to four days before they must be charged or released.
But French officials described the suspects as veteran criminals with years of experience and the underground skills to target Kardashian West and the valuables she sometimes flaunted.
Agnès Thibault-Lecuivre, a spokeswoman for the Paris prosecutor’s office, said the arrests had been made at 6 a.m. Monday in Grasse, and in Paris and the surrounding region, including the quiet suburbs of Vincennes and Le Raincy.
The police seized at least one firearm and large sums of cash, Thibault-Lecuivre said, without giving specific amounts.
She did not identify the suspects and could not say for certain whether the people who actually carried out the robbery were among them. But she said that the suspects appeared to be part of an experienced group with connections to organized crime, and that most of them had previous convictions for drug trafficking or aggravated theft. The oldest suspect, who is 72, also had a conviction for counterfeiting, she said.
The suspects’ ages echoed a case in Britain in which several men in their 60s and 70s — experienced thieves with long criminal records — were convicted of stealing $20 million in gold, jewelry and gems.
The Kardashian West robbery took place in the early hours of Oct. 3, when five people wearing balaclavas burst into a luxury residence where Kardashian West was staying during Fashion Week. Her bodyguard was absent at the time. The assailants held her at gunpoint, tied her up in the bathroom and took jewelry worth at least $9 million, along with cellphones and a wallet, before fleeing on bicycles or on foot.
Thibault-Lecuivre said investigators had identified some of the assailants using DNA evidence found at the crime scene and security camera images. None of the jewelry has been recovered.
According to French news reports, some of the DNA evidence was found on a necklace worth about $31,600 that was dropped in the street and found by a passer-by.
Luc Poignant, a police union spokesman, said officers had used that information to set up a surveillance operation that uncovered a wider criminal network.
In these kinds of networks, Poignant said, “you have the robbers, and then the one who is going to sell off the goods, the one who puts people in touch, the stone cutter, etc.”
“It didn’t take a lot of time,” he said of the investigation. “It took three months, and three months in this kind of investigation is quite short.”
The robbery drew international attention and renewed scrutiny of the string of thefts of luxury stores, wealthy tourists and famous visitors in and around the French capital over the past few years. In November, robbers made off with valuables worth an estimated $5.3 million after they targeted two Qatari sisters on the highway into the city from Paris-Le Bourget Airport, which is used for many private flights.
In some cases in France and elsewhere in Europe, the thefts appeared to be executed almost flawlessly, only for the thieves to be tripped up afterward by haphazard plans, often for disposing of the loot. In 2013, for instance, a meticulously planned robbery of a cargo of diamonds from an airplane at the Brussels airport turned to farce when the thieves struggled to sell the stones.
Kardashian West recently returned to social media after reducing her presence online following the robbery.
In a recent promotional clip for a coming season of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” the program on the E! cable network in which she stars, she tearfully recalled the crime.
“They’re going to shoot me in the back,” she remembered thinking. “There’s no way out of it.”
Jean Veil, Kardashian West’s lawyer in France, told the French newsmagazine L’Express on Monday that the arrests might help recover the jewels, and that they would also cut short “shameful speculation” that the robbery was a publicity stunt.