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Tuesday 26 September 2023 Dublin: 12°C
Alamy Stock Photo The convicted men are members of the "Remmo clan", an crime family based in Berlin.
# dresden
Five sentenced to prison for spectacular Dresden museum jewellery heist
The thieves made off with a haul worth more than €113 million from the Green Vault museum in 2019.

A GERMAN COURT sentenced five gang members to up to six years in prison for snatching priceless 18th-century jewels from a museum in Dresden for what has been dubbed the biggest art heist in modern history.

The thieves made off with a haul worth more than €113 million from the Green Vault museum in 2019. Some, but not all, of the loot was recovered in exchange for four of the defendants confessing in court.

The convicted men are members of the “Remmo clan”, an crime family based in Berlin known for a web of ties to serious organised crime in Germany.

The court in Dresden handed down three sentences ranging from just under to just over six years for armed robbery, aggravated arson and grievous bodily harm for the 25 November, 2019, heist.

Two of the men, who were minors at the time, received juvenile sentences of five years and four years and four months respectively.

A sixth defendant was acquitted because he produced a credible alibi – an emergency surgery at a Berlin hospital.

file-a-part-of-the-collection-at-the-jewellery-room-of-dresdens-green-vault-is-pictured-in-dresden-germany-april-9-2019-a-trial-over-a-jewellery-heist-on-the-green-vault-gruenes-gewoelbe-muse Alamy Stock Photo File - A part of the collection at the Jewellery Room of Dresden's Green Vault Alamy Stock Photo

The plea deal faced criticism from the president of the Berlin prosecutors’ association, Ralph Knispel – who noted the defendants had not been required to reveal their accomplices in exchange for lighter sentences.

Knispel questioned what type of message that sends to other criminals while speaking to German public broadcaster RBB.

‘Remarkable criminal drive’

The trial, which began in January 2022, shed some light on the audacious heist but left key questions unanswered.

Although many of the historic pieces were recovered, some are feared to be lost forever in what Judge Andreas Ziegel called an act of “remarkable criminal drive” by the thieves at “one of the oldest and richest treasure collections in the world”.

The loot included a sword with a diamond-encrusted hilt and a shoulder piece that contained a 49-carat Dresden white diamond.

The judge defended the plea deal, saying that without it “the jewels, which have been classed as irreplaceable, would never have returned to the Green Vault”.

Two of the defendants, Wissam (24) and Mohamed (29) Remmo, were already serving time for the daring 2017 theft of a massive gold coin from a Berlin museum.

In a statement read in court in January by their lawyer, they said the idea for the Dresden job was hatched after a younger acquaintance “came back from a field trip to the Green Vault”.

They told the court that the younger acquaintance had been “raving about the green diamonds” on display in the museum.

The court found that the defendants slipped into the museum through previously damaged bars on a window, smashed a display case with an axe and grabbed 21 pieces decorated with 4,300 jewels in less than five minutes.

The thieves were able to escape in a getaway car which they later set ablaze in an underground car park.

For months after the crime, authorities thought the haul was lost for good, with detectives scouring Europe’s shadowy stolen goods markets for signs of the Saxon royal artefacts.

berlin-berlin-germany-17th-nov-2020-police-can-be-seen-in-front-of-a-house-entrance-during-raids-in-which-police-arrested-three-suspects-more-than-1600-police-officers-under-the-leadership-of-so Alamy Stock Photo, Berlin 2020 More than 1600 police officers were involved in a large-scale police operation where 18 raids across Berlin were conducted and three arrests made. Alamy Stock Photo, Berlin 2020

40 suspects still wanted

That was until December 2022, when authorities recovered a “considerable portion” of the items following “exploratory talks” with the suspects.

Many of the pieces were badly damaged and some are still missing, including a brooch that belonged to Queen Amalie Auguste of Saxony.

In January, four of the defendants confessed, leading to the deal for lighter sentences.

A fifth said he stole tools to penetrate the building but denied taking part in the heist itself.

About 40 people believed to have been involved in planning the heist are still wanted.

The trial revealed several security failings at the Green Vault, a state institution. Its director, Marius Winzeler, has said he is “optimistic” the remaining missing pieces will one day return to Dresden, given that they “cannot be legally sold”.

The Green Vault is one of Europe’s oldest museums, founded by Augustus, Elector of Saxony, in 1723.

It is part of the Royal Palace in Dresden, which suffered severe damage in World War II. After being closed for decades, the Vault was restored and reopened in 2006, becoming a major tourist draw.

© AFP 2023

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