Six members of Remmo crime gang on trial over Dresden jewel heist

Suspects accused of robbery and arson over theft from a museum in 2019

The castle in Dresden is home to the Green Vault museum that was targeted by thieves in 2019. Reuters
Powered by automated translation

Six members of a notorious crime family go on trial on Friday accused of stealing priceless treasures in a spectacular jewel heist in Germany.

The suspects, all members of the Remmo clan, are accused of robbery and arson after the night-time raid at Dresden’s Green Vault museum in 2019.

Prosecutors say they were the gang of robbers who cut power to the museum, broke in through a window and smashed a display case with an axe, before fleeing in a car that they set on fire in an underground car park.

The stolen items, including a jewel-encrusted sword and a shoulder piece containing a 49-carat diamond, were treasures belonging to 18th-century Saxon royalty and have never been recovered.

While charging the men last year, prosecutors described the museum pieces as "extremely important in terms of art and cultural history".

It was the latest in a string of eye-catching crimes linked to the Remmo family, which saw some of its members convicted in 2020 over the theft of a giant gold coin from a Berlin museum.

Two of the suspects in the Dresden case are still serving juvenile sentences for involvement in stealing the gold coin, which has also never been found.

On a previous occasion, a Remmo gangster was jailed for a bank robbery which ended with the thieves clumsily blowing up the ground-floor bank.

The family, which originates in Lebanon and south-east Turkey, arrived in West Germany in the 1980s during the Lebanese civil war.

Three of the suspects in the Dresden heist were arrested in November 2020 after 1,600 police raided 18 properties in Berlin.

Another two, twin brothers named by police as Mohammed and Abdul Majed Remmo, were on the run until they were caught in December 2020 and May 2021, respectively.

A final suspect was arrested last summer.

Insurance experts say the loot is worth at least 113.8 million euros ($128m), with German media dubbing it the biggest art heist in modern history.

However, the director of Dresden's state art collection, Marion Ackermann, refused to put a value on the stolen items, calling them priceless.

Police on the investigation nicknamed Epaulette, after the shoulder piece, are offering a 500,000 euro reward as they search for the stolen items.

Private fundraisers have raised a further 1 million euro bounty, an offer extended this week until the end of March, but it is feared the criminals may have re-cut the precious stones after they were stolen.

The thieves grabbed 21 pieces of jewellery and other valuables from the royal collection, encrusted with more than 4,300 individual diamonds.

Most of the stolen items belonged to the Saxon electors Augustus the Strong and Augustus III, who were also kings of what was then Poland and established Dresden as a cultural centre.

The Saxon kings competed with French monarch Louis XIV to assemble the most extravagant jewellery collection in Europe at the time.

The Green Vault gets its name from the green-coloured columns and decoration in some of the rooms.

Updated: January 28, 2022, 10:01 AM