A team of some 1,600 police officers from federal special police forces and local agencies hit 18 locations during the sweep, focusing on Berlin’s Neukolln district and 10 apartments, garages and vehicles.
They caught three German citizens in connection with the spectacular Dresden museum heist of November 2019 – but failed to find two 21-year-old organized crime family members named as suspects.
They also did not find any of the uninsured gems believed to have belonged to Saxon ruler August the Strong and were ripped from the green vault inside a museum in the royal palace in Dresden.
“Of course, we hope that the ornaments will be found and that they can soon be returned to their original location,” said Dresden Museum Director Marion Ackermann, welcoming the arrests as an encouraging development.
However, Dresden Police spokesman Thomas Geithner admitted: “You would have to be very lucky to find them a year after the crime.”
Ackermann had previously refused to give any value to the stolen items, calling them “invaluable”, but sources told Bild it was worth at least $ 1.2 billion. One of its best-known treasures – the 41-carat Dresden ‘Green Diamond’ – was on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York at the time of the burglary, which was caught on surveillance footage.
The three people arrested were only identified as German citizens, two 23-year-olds and a 26-year-old. They are due to appear before an investigating judge later Tuesday.
Prosecutors said they were linked to the “Remmo clan”, a so-called “Lebanese mafia” family whose members were jailed earlier this year for the 2017 theft in Berlin of the “big leaf”. maple ”, a 220-pound coin, which is the second largest in the world and has never been salvaged.
Two family members – Abdul Majed Remmo and Mohamed Remmo, both 21 – were named as suspects in the flight from Dresden, but were not found in Tuesday’s raids.
All five are charged with “serious gang theft and two counts of arson,” Dresden prosecutors said, according to Agence France-Presse.
Berlin’s top security official Andreas Geisel said the raids should serve as a warning to organized crime.
“No one should believe that he placed himself above the rules of the state,” Geisel said.
A reward of $ 593,000 was previously offered for information on the crooks, but it was not clear if this led to the info that sparked Tuesday’s raids.
The heist had been captured in dramatic surveillance footage which showed them breaking into the museum with an ax after cutting off the local power supply.
Police responded within five minutes – but the crooks had already fled.
Bild said the thieves first set off in an Audi, which was later abandoned and set on fire – switching to a Mercedes that had been painted to look like a taxi.
Their booty included a sword with a hilt encrusted with nine large and 770 small diamonds, and a shoulder containing the famous 49-carat Dresden white diamond, the royal palace in Dresden had said.
The collection was assembled in the 18th century by Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony and later King of Poland, who commissioned and collected flashy jewelry as part of his rivalry with the King of France Louis XIV.
The treasures of the Green Vault survived Allied bombing raids during WWII, to be transported as spoils of war by the Soviet Union. They were returned to Dresden in 1958.
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