The spectacular theft of historical jewels from the Green Vault, the treasure chamber of the Dresden royal palace, perpetrated in November 2019 by members of a Berlin mafia clan, already has its judicial outcome. The Dresden court on Tuesday sentenced five men to prison terms of between four years and four months, and six years and three months, and acquitted a sixth, after the defendants agreed to return part of the stolen loot to exchange for a reduced sentence.
The restored jewels, all of them filigree 18th-century goldsmiths adorned with diamonds, were handed over to the police last December at the Berlin law firm that has defended the six defendants. Unfortunately, several were damaged or had been cut off.
Those responsible for the robbery, men between 24 and 29 years of German nationality, are part of the so-called Remmo clan, very active within the Berlin underworld and made up of several families of Lebanese origin who settled in Germany years ago. The sentences are for the crimes of group robbery and arson.
The November 25, 2019 assault on the Dresden treasury, considered one of Europe’s most valuable sets of royal jewels and treasures, left Germany shocked and stunned, and the theft made headlines around the world. The Green Vault, so called because of the color of the walls of some rooms, houses the collection that Augustus the Strong (1670-1733), Elector of Saxony and later King of Poland, began to gather, with jewels and works of art from the Renaissance and the Baroque.
In the early hours of that day, two hooded thieves -later it was learned that the group involved was at least six people- managed to enter the museum through a previously closed window, after the alarms were deactivated due to a power outage caused by themselves by setting a nearby transformer on fire. They knew what they were looking for and they acted with speed. They smashed the display case containing the desired jewels with an ax and in less than ten minutes they had fled in a car –which they also set on fire later- with a loot of gold, diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires.
In total, 21 pieces from the 18th century were stolen, set with more than 4,300 diamonds, including one of 49 carats, for an insured material value of more than 113 million euros. The director of the Dresden State Art Collections (SKD), Marion Ackermann, then underlined “the inestimable historical and cultural value” of the stolen jewels, beyond their material valuation. The thieves also caused material damage of more than a million euros.
But, despite the power cut, a security camera was able to record the assailants on video, which, together with DNA traces, made it possible to locate the alleged culprits, three of whom were captured in a police raid in the Berlin neighborhood of Neukölln in November 2020. Soon after, the police managed to arrest the leaders of the group, two twin brothers, and a sixth suspect was arrested in August 2021. The trial of the six main detainees began on January 28 of last year.
One of the defendants, eager to reduce the sentence, then proposed to return pieces in exchange. Thus, on December 17, 2022, 31 jewels or fragments were recovered – the complete stolen pieces were 21 – in the Berlin law office. Among what was recovered is the chest star of the Polish Order of the White Eagle, although one point was torn off. But missing, among other pieces, is the diamond necklace and diamond brooch of Queen Amalia Augusta, and the epaulette with the so-called White Saxon, a 49-carat diamond.
The dressings are so well known in their field that it is unfeasible to sell them on the black market, unless they are chopped. Police divers even dived into a Berlin canal in Neukölln looking for possible remains of the jewels, but found only tools perhaps used in the robbery. Forty other suspects of involvement in the robbery are still being sought.
From the beginning, the investigators connected the burglary in the Green Vault with another spectacular robbery of a similar nature that occurred in the Bode Museum, on the Museum Island in Berlin. On a night in March 2017, hooded youths stole a 100-kilo gold coin, a big maple leaf issued by Canada with the effigy of Elizabeth II and of which only six copies were minted. The thieves were in cahoots with a temporary museum watchman, and carried off the large coin in a wheelbarrow. The huge coin, worth around 3.75 million euros, was never found, and everything indicates that it was melted down to sell gold in small quantities. Two of the perpetrators of this assault later participated in the Dresden robbery.
In the historical part of the Green Vault there are more than 3,000 jewels and precious objects, made of gold, silver, precious stones, ivory, pearls, amber or tortoise shell. They have been on the ground floor – where the robbery was committed – since 2004, when the museum was renovated and reconditioned, and the first floor was used for temporary exhibitions. One of its most famous treasures, the so-called 41-carat Dresden Green Diamond, was saved from theft because at the time it was on loan to the Metropolitan Museum in New York for an exhibition.