NewsA brazen coup - jewel theft from Dresden in...

A brazen coup – jewel theft from Dresden in court

On a November morning, historical jewels are stolen from the Saxon Treasury Museum. The pieces of jewelry have disappeared from the face of the earth – now the suspected perpetrators are coming to court.

Dresden – The spectacular theft of jewels from the historic Green Vault in Dresden was more than two years ago. It is still unclear how the famous baroque treasury museum, previously considered a “walk-in vault”, was broken into – and where the precious loot is.

The trial against six suspects at the Elbestadt district court, which begins next Friday (January 28), is eagerly awaited. Because of the age of two of the accused at the time of the crime, the Greater Criminal Chamber is acting as a juvenile chamber and in the specially secured hall of the Higher Regional Court. It has been adjusted to months and initially scheduled for 64 days until the end of October, continuation possible.

It was a matter of minutes: on the morning of November 25, 2019, two men broke into the Residenzschloss, punched holes in a showcase with an ax and ripped out 21 pieces of jewelry. According to the indictment, the accused stole over 4,300 diamonds and brilliants with a total insurance value of at least 113.8 million euros – and caused property damage of a good one million euros. The art theft also made international headlines and not only shocked the museum world.

Media interest is correspondingly high. The number of those involved in the proceedings also makes the process special: 14 defense attorneys alone – lawyers from Dresden, Leipzig, Berlin, Hanover and Hamburg -, three public prosecutors, dozens of witnesses.

Coup by a Berlin clan

The investigators are convinced that the coup is the work of members of an Arab clan in Berlin, which is also linked to the theft of a 100-kilogram gold coin from the Bode Museum in Berlin in 2017. The suspects, who were gradually caught by the summer of 2021, are three brothers and their cousins. The public prosecutor’s office is certain that those directly involved in the crime have been charged: with aggravated gang theft, arson and particularly aggravated arson.

She also accuses them of setting fire to a power box near the castle and a getaway car in the underground car park of a residential building before the burglary, thereby accepting the possible death of people sleeping above. And they are said to have been armed. Particularly spicy: At the time of the crime, two of them were being tried for the gold coin at the Berlin district court. They were still at large. In February 2020, they were sentenced to four and a half years in youth custody and are now legally behind bars – and their alleged accomplices in custody.

DNA traces from cars and from the crime scene, videos, data and testimonies support the course of the crime, which the public prosecutor’s office assumes. “The crime has been solved to this extent,” says a spokesman. The special commission “Epaulette”, named after one of the prominent booty items, continues to investigate the background of the brazen coup.

Did the perpetrators have insider knowledge?

There are suspicions that the perpetrators had insider knowledge and allegations that security personnel helped with documents on the premises and security system or actively facilitated the break-in. So far, there has not been sufficient suspicion against four security guards. Four other men, Germans and Poles, who had scouted the crime scene and may have been involved in the preparation, were questioned. And the soko continues to look for the stolen valuables, gaps are left in the diamond and brilliant sets in the display case in case they return.

“We are doing everything humanly possible to bring them back,” says the chief prosecutor. One remains confident. “So far, no evidence of destruction or sale has been found,” said Saxony’s Minister of Culture, Barbara Klepsch (CDU). Prominent cases showed that it could take years for such crimes to be cleared up. A reward of 500,000 euros is still on offer, also for information leading to the finding of the loot. The one million euros from private art lovers in Berlin are still available. Talking could also pay off for the accused. “The return of the jewelry could be taken into account when sentencing,” says the senior public prosecutor.

The Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media also hopes “of course that the stolen pieces of jewelry will turn up again”, as a spokesman says. She will follow the process “with great interest”. What is particularly important is “the careful clarification of what happened and the lessons that could be drawn from it for the safety of museums in the future”. dpa

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