Up to six years in prison for the audacious Dresden palace burglars

If part of the loot, estimated at more than 113 million euros, has been found, many jewels from the collections of the princes of Saxony remain missing.

More than three and a half years later the spectacular theft of jewels from the Dresden museum, in Saxony, five of the six defendants were sentenced on Tuesday to prison terms of up to six years and three months. The sixth defendant, who had an alibi on the night of the burglary, was acquitted. A significant part of the stolen loot, insured for a total value of more than 113 million euros, was found in Decemberafter negotiations between the defense and the prosecution.

Judged in particular for aggravated theft in an organized gang », the defendants, aged 24 to 29, related to each other, risked ten years of imprisonment. In total, the team had stolen 21 jewels from the XVIIIe century, set with more than 4,300 diamonds, including one of 49 carats.

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The case dates back to November 25, 2019, when two burglars broke into one of the oldest museums in Europe, the “Grünes Gewölbe” (the Green Vault), located in the Palace of the Princes of Saxony, in Dresden. The excitement is immense. Director of the Dresden State Art Collections Marion Ackermann talks about harm of historical and cultural value invaluable“.

Investigation with twists and turns

German police arrest three first suspects in 2020. They belong to the Remmo clan. This Kurdish group of Lebanese origin, rooted in the popular Berlin district of Neukölln, had already been implicated in the theft of a giant gold coin of 100 kilos, worth around 3.75 million euros , stolen in 2017 from the Bode Museum in the German capital. But no trace of the jewels of Dresden is then found, in spite of important promises of rewards.

The showcase of the Dresden palace which kept the stolen jewels, in November 2019. Sebastian Kahnert, dpa, AFP

The trial of the defendants, meanwhile six in number, opens on January 28, 2022, more than two years after the audacious burglary. A new twist in the middle of the trial, on December 17, 2022: some of the stolen jewels reappear in Berlin. In all, 31 complete pieces or fragments that were found by investigators. Among them are “The Breast Star of the Polish Order of the White Eagle”set with diamonds, and the “hat jewelry”, with nearly 300 diamonds. Several other pieces are missing, however, including a brooch that belonged to Queen Amalie Auguste of Saxony.

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Many of the jewels returned are incomplete or have been “damaged” during their attempt to clean up, probably to erase traces. Damage was also caused by storage in water, with an expert describing breaks, scratches, rust and numerous missing diamonds.

A long-term plan

Most of this take was done through negotiations between the defense and the prosecution, on the sidelines of the trial, to prepare confessions from the accused. A few weeks later, several perpetrators of the burglary thus lift part of the veil on the preparation of their package, which lasted, they explain, a year. Their plan was hatched after an acquaintance spoke with great enthusiasm of a school trip to the museum in Dresden and green diamonds that were displayed there ».

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The exhibition halls and surroundings of the establishment had then been scouted. A window on the ground floor was not in the field of video surveillance, the burglars had sawed off the grid, wrapping it in adhesive tape to conceal these preparations. Before their offence, the criminals had set fire to an electrical transformer near the museum in order to cut off the mains supply. Later, they also set fire to a car they had fled with.

The pivity of the four museum guards initially intrigued the police, but due to lack of evidence, the investigation against them was dropped last November. Forty other suspects are still wanted for their involvement in the heist. And the fate of the jewels still intrigues the investigators: what did the burglars do with them for three years? And where are the still missing pieces? The only consolation of German justice: the ornaments still in nature are so famous that they are unsaleable in their state, unless the diamonds are extracted and recut, which gives good hope to the museum of returning to their possession one day. . Sooner or later.

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