Nearly four years after reality star Kim Kardashian was tied up at gunpoint in Paris and robbed of a small fortune in gems, a trial for 12 suspects appeared a step closer Thursday after prosecutors asked for the case to go to court.
On a visit to the French capital for Fashion Week in October 2016, five men stormed Kardashian's rented luxury residence, held her at gunpoint, gagged her and tied her up in a bathroom.
One of them "asked me with a strong French accent where my ring was. It was on the bedside table. (But) I replied that I didn't know and then he pulled out a gun and I showed him the ring," the wife of rapper Kanye West told police at the time.
The near-20-carat Lorraine Schwartz diamond ring was worth about $4 million (3.6 million euros).
Kardashian said the men, at least one of whom was wearing a jacket with police insignia, tied her up with plastic cables and adhesive tape "and they carried me to my bathroom" where they placed her in the bathtub.
The gang also took a box containing two Cartier diamond bracelets, a diamond-studded necklace, a yellow gold Rolex watch and a diamond-encrusted cross.
In the biggest robbery of an individual in France in two decades, the men made off with a combined haul worth about nine million euros.
One of the alleged robbers, Yunis Abbas, fleeing the scene on a bicycle, dropped a diamond-encrusted cross worth 30,000 euros which was found by a passer-by hours later.
It remains the only piece to be recovered from the heist.
- 'Old Omar' and 'Shredded Nose' -
Twelve suspects in the case are at liberty but under state supervision.
Late Wednesday, a judicial source told AFP prosecutors have asked for a trial to be held in the case, with charges of armed robbery, kidnapping and criminal conspiracy against the five men accused of executing the heist.
They include alleged mastermind, Aomar Ait Khedache, known as "Old Omar", arrested after his DNA was found at the scene of the crime, allowing police to track down his alleged accomplices, one by one.
Charges against the rest include helping plan the heist, illegal possession of weapons and providing information on the target.
The son of "Old Omar" stands accused of having driven the robbers' car, while suspect Marceau Baum-Gartner -- nicknamed "Shredded Nose" -- is suspected of having acted as the middle man.
He allegedly made eight trips in two months to jewellery capital Antwerp, Belgium, after the robbery.
Investigating magistrates must now decide whether the case can go to trial. If yes, it is unlikely to open before 2021.
Many of the accused are in their 60s and 70s and well-known to the police, with several convictions among them for crimes including robbery and drug trafficking.
Khedache has admitted his involvement in the Kardashian heist, and told investigators he had struggled to find a buyer for her ring, as it was "too recognisable" .
He said he gave the jewel, a gift from her husband which Kardashian had flaunted on Instagram, to a third party, whom he would not identify.
Khedache told investigators the other jewellery was dismantled and the gold melted down into bars.
"There must have been 800 or so grams, worth 25,000 or 28,000 euros," he said in testimony revealed by Le Monde newspaper in 2017.
In October 2016, five men stormed the Paris luxury residence Kim Kardashian was staying at, held her at gunpoint, gagged her and tied her up in a bathroom before making off with precious jewels
Kardashian had been staying in a discreet apartment-hotel complex in Paris's chic Madeleine district