German police arrest 3 suspects in heist of royal jewels

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BERLIN – German police responded to one of the country’s most jaw-dropping heists on Tuesday (17) with a massive search operation in Berlin, netting three suspects and launching an international manhunt for two others a year after the elaborate jewel theft took place.

Some 1,640 police officers descended on the Berlin district of Neukoelln in the early hours of Tuesday hoping to find evidence relating to the November 19, 2019 dawn raid on Dresden’s Green Vault museum, home to one of Europe’s finest treasure troves.

“The stolen artefacts have not been found so far,” the state prosecutor in Dresden said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon, after the raids were concluded.

Police searched 20 apartments, two garages, a cafe and several vehicles in Berlin, seizing mobile phones, computers, clothes and small quantities of narcotics.

Three suspects – two men aged 23 and another aged 26 – were detained in the German capital and then brought to the eastern city of Dresden, where they were formally placed under arrest.

“They have not yet addressed the allegations,” the state prosecutor said.

According to investigators, the men are members of a sprawling Arab family known to police as the Remmo Clan in Berlin’s criminal underworld.

Police are also looking for two other suspects, twin brothers aged 21, and are following several leads.

“The search is being conducted internationally,” a spokesman for the Dresden public prosecutor said.

The five suspects face charges of serious gang theft and arson.

Before dawn on November 25 last year, two people broke into Dresden’s opulent Green Vault museum through a barred window and smashed a display case with an axe, making away with diamonds and other jewels. The operation lasted a matter of minutes.

The Green Vault thieves fled Dresden by car, driving nearly 200 kilometres north on the autobahn to Berlin, the Dresden prosecutor’s spokesman said. The high-powered getaway vehicle was reportedly disguised as a taxi.

The bandits had used another car to escape the scene of the crime, before leaving that vehicle in an underground garage a few kilometres from the museum and setting it alight.

The loot swiped in the November 2019 plot is considered priceless. The Dresden White Diamond and the Polish Order of the White Eagle were among over two dozen items stolen.

The gang family linked to the theft was also implicated in another spectacular heist to take place in Germany in recent years.

In March 2017, thieves made away with a 100-kilogram gold coin from the Bode Museum in central Berlin. They broke in using a ladder, smashed the security glass on a display case and then rolled the giant coin away in a wheelbarrow to a car.

Three men were sentenced to jail for the crime in February, and two of them were ordered to repay 3.3 million euros (3.6 million dollars), representing the value of the coin, which is thought to have been melted down by the criminals.

The SKD cultural institution that runs the Green Vault welcomed the progress made in the investigation with Tuesday’s major police operation.

“The current developments in Berlin give us great hope that the case of the burglary of the Historic Green Vault almost one year ago will soon be solved,” said SKD director general Marion Ackermann.

Martin Hikel, district leader of Berlin’s Neukoelln neighbourhood, said the raids and arrests were a victory in the battle against organized crime.

“Today is further proof that our strategy is working,” he wrote on Facebook.

-dpa

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