Raids in Germany as police hunt stolen museum jewels

Searches linked to Dresden museum break-in come after six suspects went on trial for robbery and arson

An investigator in forensic gear works behind a police cordon outside the historic Green Vault in Dresden. AFP
Powered by automated translation

Detectives hunting for the missing jewels stolen from a German museum in 2019 have raided an apartment block on the far side of the country.

The searches on Saturday came a day after six suspects went on trial accused of a gangland break-in at Dresden’s Green Vault.

But the start of the trial has not brought a halt to inquiries, with police still hoping to locate the missing treasures.

The thieves stole 21 pieces of jewellery and including a diamond-encrusted sword, which belonged to the former monarchs of Saxony, in a haul estimated to be worth at least €113.8 million ($128m).

As well as searching for the loot, detectives are looking into potential accomplices who may have helped the thieves break into the museum.

Authorities gave few details of the evening raids in Essen, an industrial city in western Germany, more than 500 kilometres from Dresden.

A spokesman for Dresden prosecutors said the searches took place "as part of an investigative proceeding" being carried out by that office, without giving further details.

But security sources told German news agency dpa that the joint raids between Dresden and Essen police were linked to the notorious heist.

Police previously made arrests in Berlin, nearer to Dresden, which culminated in members of the notorious Remmo crime family being put on trial.

Members of the clan were convicted for the theft of a giant gold coin from a Berlin museum in 2017 and a bank robbery in the capital in 2014.

In the Dresden case, the six suspects on trial are accused of cutting power to the museum before breaking in through a window and smashing a display case with an axe to steal the jewels.

They are also accused of arson after allegedly escaping in a getaway car and setting fire to the vehicle in an underground car park.

Most of the stolen jewels were from the 18th century and belonged to the Saxon electors Augustus the Strong and Augustus III.

The Saxon royals competed with French monarch Louis XIV to assemble priceless jewellery collections.

Police on the investigation known as Epaulette, after a shoulder piece stolen from the gallery, are offering a €500,000 reward for the loot.

Private fundraisers have put together a further €1 million bounty, an offer extended last week until the end of March.

Updated: January 31, 2022, 9:32 AM