One of the suspected armed thieves in the Kim Kardashian jewellery heist is a "granddad gangster" linked to an extensive cocaine smuggling ring involving a Saudi prince and a Colombian drugs cartel, prosecutors say.

French police have released Kardashian's driver, who had chauffeured her back from a restaurant to her flat on the night of the robbery and taken her sister Kourtney and personal bodyguard to a nightclub.

Also released were the wife and son of one of the suspected thieves arrested in connection with the£8.6 million robbery in Paris.

Police are working on the theory that the raid on October 3 on the exclusive apartment block where Kardashian, 36, had been staying during Paris Fashion Week was an "inside job".

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Police arrested 17 people on Tuesday and seized €2,440,000 in cash. Fourteen are still in custody, among them the chauffeur's brother, who works for the same company.

Also under arrest are the five men believed to have robbed the US reality television star of valuables that included her £3.5 million engagement ring, after tying her up in her apartment, along with the block's security agent.

CCTV caught some of the men arriving and leaving the building on bikes, some disguised as police officers.

Among the suspects is Didier Dubreucq, who is in his sixties and nicknamed "Blue Eyes". In 2003, he was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in prison for his role in a high-profile drug-smuggling case involving Prince Nayef Bin Fawaz al-Shaalan, of Saudi Arabia.

Prince Nayef was later sentenced to 10 years in prison in absentia after using his diplomatic immunity to smuggle two tons of cocaine to France in his private Boeing 727 in 1999. The US drug enforcement agency had accused the prince of making contacts with Colombia's Medellin cartel.

French police officers and a TV crew stand outside the residence of Kim Kardashian West in Paris in October. Photo / AP file
French police officers and a TV crew stand outside the residence of Kim Kardashian West in Paris in October. Photo / AP file

Another suspected thief is Marceau B, a 64-year-old from the travelling community nicknamed "Scraped Nose". Europe 1, a radio station, alleged he was implicated in a 2008 heist in which thieves posed as police officers.

Prosecutors said they suspect the mastermind to be a 59-year-old Frenchman of Algerian descent nicknamed Omar Le Vieux (Omar the Old), arrested with his two sons, aged 23 and 29, near Paris.

The oldest suspect under arrest is Pierre B, 72, known to police in counterfeit money cases and reportedly close to a notorious Marseille gangster called Tony Cossu, nicknamed "the Eel" for his jail-breaking skills.