A court in the German city of Dresden on Tuesday sentenced members of a criminal syndicate for stealing valuable items on display from one of Europe’s largest collections of treasures.
Five of the suspects were sentenced to between four years and four months and six years and three months. The sixth suspect was acquitted.
The theft of artifacts from the Green Vault is one of the most spectacular heists in German history.
Four of the six defendants admitted involvement in the crime as part of a plea bargain, and another admitted helping to plan it. A sixth man pleaded not guilty to participating.
What happened to the break-in?
The heist saw two thieves enter the vault through a window at Dresden’s Royal Palace in the early hours of November 25, 2019. They broke open a display case and escaped with treasures dating back to the 17th and 18th that century.
The team conducted reconnaissance of the area several times and divided a section of cast-iron guttering in advance to make it easier to break in later, prosecutors said.
They stole about 4,300 diamonds and other precious stones from 21 jewelers that, although worth about €113 million ($122 million), are considered by many to be priceless.
Estimates put the damage caused by the break-in alone at more than €1 million.
A large portion of the loot was returned to state collections, partially damaged, after preliminary plea bargain talks.
Prosecutors said Berlin’s Remmo family, a notorious organized crime gang of Arab heritage known as the “clan” in German media, was behind the Green Vault heist. The court also found the family responsible for stealing a giant gold coin — weighing 100 kilograms — from the Bode Museum in Berlin in 2017.
What is Green Vault?
The vault is inside the Royal Palace in Dresden and is home to the treasures of the Polish king August the Strong, who first put his family dynasty’s collection of Renaissance and baroque treasures on display. public in the early 18th century.
It gets its name from the green-colored columns and green velvet wall coverings in many of the museum’s rooms.
The artifacts remained on display until World War II when three of the Green Vault’s eight richly decorated exhibition rooms were destroyed during an Allied air raid on Dresden in February 1945.
Fortunately, the portable exhibits had already been removed and stored in a fortress in the nearby Elbsandstein mountains for safekeeping.
These items were seized by the Red Army Trophy Commission and sent to the Soviet Union after the war and remained there until 1958 when Moscow passed a resolution providing for their return to Dresden.
Parts of the collection are on display at the city’s Albertinum museum because war damage made returning to the palace itself impossible.
It was not until more than half a century after the war that the world’s famous treasures regained their place in the Royal Palace in 2004 when 1,080 masterpieces were seen.
Two years later, Chancellor Angela Merkel officially reopened the vault after a major multi-million-euro renovation.
Among the treasures on display are jewel-encrusted figurines, a ring belonging to Protestant reformer Martin Luther, ostrich eggs mounted in gold, and rhinoceros horn cups.
rc/wd (AFP, dpa)