Five men from an organised Berlin clan all in their twenties, who were behind one of Germany’s most brazen jewellery heists, have been found guilty in a city’s Higher Regional Court and handed various sentences, with the longest being just over six years.
The crime which was committed at the Gruenes Gewoelbe (Green Vault) museum in Dresden’s Royal Palace back in 2019, saw the thieves, all from a notorious criminal family network, steal precious items that contained more than 4,300 diamonds, worth an estimated €113m (£98m).
They were part of a treasure trove collected in the 18th Century and had amongst them a breast star of the Polish Order of the White Eagle and an ornate diamond head-dress.
Police did recover many of the jewels, including a diamond encrusted sword, after three of the men confessed and a deal was agreed with prosecutors for a lighter sentence, in return for information on the whereabouts of the stolen stash.
Not all of the treasured collection could be accounted for and it is feared the those items still missing may never be found, and that includes a very rare diamond called the White Stone of Saxony.
A sixth man was acquitted of the charges which were of aggravated gang theft and serious arson.
The robbery was planned and carried out in meticulous detail, with the gang visiting the intended target several times prior to carrying out the deed. The entry point was prepared in advance by sawing through the bars of of protective window covering, using a hydraulic cutting machine, before taping it back into place.
Remarkably this was not heard or spotted, and then early on 25 November 2019 they returned.
Over and done in ten minutes
Their first move was to set fire to a circuit breaker panel near to the museum, which had the effect of immersing the surrounding streets into total darkness, giving two of the men the opportunity to slip unnoticed inside the gallery, where CCTV footage captured the mask wearing duo as they smashed a glass display case with an axe and creatively retrieved the jewels with fishing twine.
Fire extinguisher foam was sprayed all around the room to cover their tracks ahead of them making their getaway in a vehicle they later dumped and set fire to in an underground car park. It is thought that from start to finish the operation incredibly took less than ten minutes.
Security under spotlight
The ease and cheek of the theft raised serious questions about the adequacy of the museum’s security measures, with the system that was in place to scan the outer walls of the building completely failing. Indeed, one of the thieves spoke of his astonishment that they went undetected.
Police investigated four security guards who they believed could have had some involvement, as they apparently saw the event unfolding on their monitors, but reacted suspiciously slowly in raising the alarm; however those enquiries were dropped in 2022, for reasons not disclosed.
Organised crime clans
After almost a year of investigating and gathering evidence, police finally made their arrests of the men who are all members of the “Remmo clan”, one of several clans involved in organised crime operating throughout Germany.
Three of those detained eventually agreed to disclose the whereabouts of some of their haul, which resulted in them receiving slightly lighter prison terms. The sentences ranged from four years and four months to six years and two months.
Restoration in progress
With new improved security in place now, much of the returned jewels are being restored after being damaged in the theft and experts are optimistic that the treasure can be brought back to its former glory and, eventually, go back on public display.
The vast accumulation of fine jewellery was commissioned way back in 1723 by Saxony’s ruler, Augustus the Strong, the Elector of Saxony, and later King of Poland, as part of his rivalry with France’s King Louis XIV.
Collection unlikely to ever be complete again
The treasures miraculously survived intense bombing raids in World War Two, before on its conclusion, the Russians got their hands on them and quickly transferred them to their homeland.
Eventually, after long negotiations, they were returned to their rightful place in 1958. Nevertheless, there is a resignation from curators that it is unlikely the collection will ever be whole again, with many pieces still missing.