Police in Germany, Monday swooped on the ‘$1billion diamond heist’ gang
Heavily armed cops arrested three suspects in Berlin over theft that included a 16th-century diamond-encrusted sword and other items of jewelry from a museum in Dresden, Germany in Nov. 2019
The thieves were caught on CCTV breaking in to steal ‘a world heritage’, totaling about 100 jewelry items from the Dresden Green Vault Museum jewel heist
Thieves stole jewelry sets commissioned by the 18th-century ruler of Saxony
They include 49-carat diamond worth $11.9million and diamond-encrusted sword
Three people have been arrested over a $1.19billion [€1billion] diamond heist in Germany, which included the theft of a 16th-century diamond-encrusted sword.
Police raided apartments across Berlin early Tuesday morning and detained three people suspected of involvement in a jewel heist at Dresden’s Green Vault Museum.
The thieves forced their way into the museum in November last year and got away with at least three sets of early 18th century jewelry, including diamonds and rubies.
Police searched 18 apartments, garages and vehicles for the stolen gems and other evidence including digital data, clothes and tools, mostly in the city’s southern district of Neukoelln.
A total of 1,638 officers took part in the operation that could cause serious traffic disruptions through the day, it added.
Three suspects, all German nationals, were arrested on suspicion of theft and arson, and will appear before a investigating judge later in the morning, the police said.
The force said coordinate arrests were also being executed in different parts of the country, without going into detail
Heavily-armed police were seen guarding an apartment building in Kreuzberg district of Berlin on Tuesday morning during raids in which police arrested three suspects in connection with the spectacular robbery in the Gruenes Gewoelbe museum in Dresden, in November 2019.
Security camera footage showed two men breaking into the museum through a grilled window in the early hours of November 25.
Officers were on the scene five minutes after the alarm sounded, but were gone along with the loot.
The stolen jewels were worth up to $1.19billion [€1billion], Bild newspaper reported at the time.
They included a sword whose hilt is encrusted with nine large and 770 smaller diamonds, and a shoulder piece which contains the famous 49-carat Dresden White diamond.
The Dresden White is one of the most precious jewels in the collection of former Saxon ruler August the Strong.
The jewels were stolen after thieves set fire to a junction box, cutting power to the museum’s alarms, then managed to get through a small gap in a grille of a window on the ground floor.
Tobias Kormind, managing director of the diamond retailer 77Diamonds, said the sword alone could be worth up to $12million, adding that thieves would have ‘hit the jackpot’ if they did take it.
‘None of the diamonds would have been in themselves extra special except for the one large Dresden White,’ he said.
Eleven pieces were removed completely, while individual parts of a further three items were also missing.
Police say they were alerted to the break-in at 4.59am on November 25 and suspect that the thieves were behind an electrical fire which broke out nearby.
Shutting off the electricity may have helped the burglars to disable the museum’s alarm systems and also left the area in darkness. It is unclear whether the alarms had a backup power supply.
In addition, a burned-out vehicle was discovered nearby and detectives are now trying to track down the owner to establish whether the fire was related to the theft.
Reports in Germany say the thieves were ‘noticeably small’ and able to fit through a tiny space in a window.
The collection was brought together in the 18th century by Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony and later King of Poland, who commissioned ever more brilliant jewelry as part of his rivalry with France’s King Louis XIV.
Augustus, who was elector of Saxony from 1694 to 1733 and also king of Poland for much of that time, established Dresden as a cultural centre and founded the museum.
The material worth of the jewellery was less important than the fact that the jewels had come as a set, museum director Marion Ackermann said last year.
Asked about the suggested value of a billion euros, she said the value of the items stolen could not be quantified.
‘We’re dealing with priceless artistic and cultural treasures,’ she told reporters in Dresden this afternoon. ‘We cannot give a value because it is impossible to sell.
Dirk Syndram, another director at the museum, said the sets amounted to ‘a kind of world heritage’, totaling about 100 jewelry items.
He explained that the stolen sets were part of a ten-set collection which includes not only diamonds, but also sapphires, rubies and emeralds.
One of the museum’s best known treasures the 41-carat Dresden Green Diamond was away on loan at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art at the time of the break-in.
The treasures of the Green Vault survived Allied bombing raids in World War Two, only to be carted off as war booty by the Soviet Union.
They were returned to Dresden, the historic capital of the state of Saxony, in 1958.