German jewel theft police arrest Dutchman over '€40,000 reward scam'

Police say suspect claimed he could recover missing Green Vault treasure then fled with the money

A forensic investigator at the scene of the Green Vault burglary, Dresden, where treasures were stolen in November 2019. AFP
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Police investigating a spectacular jewel theft in Germany have arrested a Dutchman on suspicion of a €40,000 ($41,570) scam to claim reward money.

The man claimed to know the whereabouts of some of the stolen loot and offered to buy it back for Dresden's Green Vault, police said.

He then vanished after authorities handed him the cash, it is alleged.

The vault was raided in 2019 by burglars who broke in during the night, stealing treasures that belonged to the 18th-century rulers of Saxony.

The stolen items, including a shoulder piece encrusted with the Dresden White Diamond, were described as priceless by the museum.

Although several members of the Remmo crime clan are on trial over the theft, the missing jewellery has never been found.

But authorities thought they had a lead after the 54-year-old Dutchman contacted an art detective last December.

Prosecutors said he posed as a jewellery dealer who had been offered one of the missing items, a medal from Poland's Order of the White Eagle.

Authorities were impressed by the man's exceptional knowledge of art, police said, and his claims had initially appeared plausible.

The medal of the Polish Order of the White Eagle stolen in 2019 from the Green Vault in Dresden. Reuters

With the help of the art detective and his lawyer, the museum put up €40,000 that had been raised by donors as a potential reward.

It was handed over in cash at a meeting in Belgium on December 27, after the museum agreed the Dutchman could buy back the missing piece.

But "contrary to his assertions, he ran away with the money", the Dresden prosecutor's office said.

It said police soon discovered the man had a criminal record and tracked him down in the Netherlands.

In May, by which time he was in Dutch custody on a separate matter, a judge in Germany issued a European arrest warrant.

On November 10, he was transferred to Germany and arrested on suspicion of fraud.

Police said he had yet to comment on the allegations.

Updated: November 18, 2022, 11:15 AM
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