Almost exactly a year after three 18th-century jewelry sets estimated to be worth some €1 billion (around $1.2 billion) were stolen in Germany, investigators have detained three German citizens suspected of committing the heist, according to a report in the Guardian. The arrests were made after 18 raids in Berlin involving over 1,600 police officers occurred on Tuesday morning, and officials said they had linked the Dresden theft to a crime syndicate, which they also said was responsible for another theft in Berlin.
The news of the break-in has captivated much of the world, particularly because the low-tech methods that had been used to plunder the objects. Early on a Monday morning in November last year, thieves started a fire at an electricity box that caused some of the museum’s security systems to fail. They then proceed toward the Green Vault of Dresden’s Royal Palace, where security footage shows them entering the museum through a ground floor grilled window and then proceeding toward a glass case, which they shattered with an axe. Police arrived five minutes after alarms sounded, but the thieves had already escaped.
The Green Vault, part of Dresden’s Staatliche Kunstsammlungen consortium, consists of 10 rooms with various glass-encased displays showing some 30,000 jewelry artifacts. The institution’s collection was amassed by Polish king August the Strong in the first half of the 18th century and opened to the public in 1723.
Earlier this year, reports said that the Berlin authorities had investigated four security guards at the museum for failing to “react adequately” during the theft, and in September, authorities raided an internet café and an apartment in Berlin related to the investigation. At the time, police said that as few as seven people might be involved in the heist.
This week’s arrest involves a suspect who was involved in another heist of Berlin’s Bode Museum in March 2017, in which thieves stole a 220-pound commemorative coin, named the “Big Maple Leaf,” that is estimated to be worth $4.5 million. The authorities said that both crimes were connected via the crime syndicate.
In a press conference, Jürgen Schmidt, spokesperson for Dresden state prosecutor, said, “I can confirm that one of the suspects has already been sentenced because of the theft at the Bode Museum.” Because of German privacy laws, officials typically do not identify the names of suspects in ongoing cases, but German media has reported that suspect to be Wissam Remmo, 23, who allegedly has ties to organized crime. (Remmo was sentenced to 4.5 years in connection with the Bode Museum theft, but has not started his sentence as he appealed the ruling.)
Police officials said they had been able to identify the suspects via the camera footage that captured the heist and DNA traces left behind in a getaway car that suspects had burned. The whereabouts of the stolen jewels is still unknown, and investigators said they hope to reclaim them, but there are concerns that the jewels might have already been recut and sold on the black market, according to the Guardian.