It has been almost a year since Germany learned the shocking news that a billion dollars in jewelry had been stolen from one of Europe’s most prized historical treasure collections. Now, after a successful pre-dawn raid in Berlin, the daring thieves may soon face justice.
German police said on Tuesday three men had been arrested and two others were being chased, in connection with what has been described as the biggest artistic robbery since World War II. The crime, which made worldwide headlines last November, saw ax-wielding thieves force entry into Dresden’s Green Vault, located in the former royal palace Residenzschloss.
Surveillance video released by German authorities at the time showed intruders using axes to smash glass display cases in order to escape with more than a dozen priceless artifacts in gold, diamonds and other precious stones. The thieves – who allegedly escaped the scene in an Audi A6 – allegedly started a fire that led to a power outage in the palace, disarming the elaborate network of security alarms.
For a year, there were no signs of thieves or famous jewelry – until Tuesday morning, when hundreds of police and special forces from across Germany descended on a neighborhood in Berlin and carried out three arrests. More than 1,600 police officers searched a total of 18 locations, according to reports, including 10 apartments as well as garages and vehicles.
“Today’s measures focus on finding stolen artistic treasures and possible evidence, such as storage media, clothing and tools,” Dresden police and prosecutors said in a joint statement. The arrested men are charged with “serious gang theft and two counts of arson,” the statement said, and are due to appear before a judge later Tuesday.
Officials in Dresden only identified the three men as German citizens between the ages of 23 and 26. Two other suspects, Abdul Majed Remmo and Mohamed Remmo, both aged 21, are wanted on the same charges.
The raids failed to recover any of the treasures. “You would have to be very lucky to find them a year after the crime,” Dresden police spokesman Thomas Geithner reportedly told German media, adding: “But hope dies last.”
Given the unique nature of the missing parts, it is unlikely that they could have been resold. At the time, experts said they feared the works of art would be destroyed and their gems sold individually, making it impossible to consolidate the collection.
Michael Kretschmer, the leader of Saxony – which has Dresden as its capital – expressed his devastation at last year’s loss, saying: “You can’t understand the history of our country, or the Free State of Saxony without the Green Vault and the state art collections of Saxony. “
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