Suspects in €114 million jewel heist go on trial in Germany

Lost items include diamond-encrusted sword and the 49-carat white Dresden diamond

Six men accused of carrying out the greatest jewel heist in modern history have gone on trial in Dresden.

The accused, aged between 22 and 28, are accused of robbery and arson relating to the raid on the Green Vault treasury in Dresden’s former royal palace on the night of November 25th, 2019.

Prosecutors said on Friday that the six, all members of an organised crime family from Berlin, took just eight minutes to get in and out of the museum before fleeing in a getaway car.

Despite a worldwide search, and a €1.5 million reward for information, there has been no trace since of the items stolen from the royal treasury of former Saxon ruler August the Strong.


The lost items include a diamond-encrusted sword and a shoulder piece containing the 49-carat white Dresden diamond.

In opening remarks, a state prosecutor said the lost items were “extremely important in terms of art and cultural history” of Saxony and, comprising a total of 4,300 diamonds, were valued at almost €114 million. Dresden’s state museum director Marion Ackermann went further, speaking of a “priceless” gap in the collection.

Police say the theft was planned for months but began in earnest days earlier, when the thieves weakened a metal grille covering a ground-floor window. It was near to the street but out of the range of internal security cameras.

DNA evidence

At dawn on the morning of the raid, the thieves first set a fire at a local electricity distributor box, plunging the area around the museum into darkness. No alarm sounded when two men broke through the side windowed 4.20am; security cameras captured the moment when they smashed their way into jewel cases and took 94 pieces. Minutes later, all police found of the thieves was their burnt-out getaway car in a nearby car park.

A year later, DNA evidence lead Saxon police to carry out a series of dawn raids to arrest the suspected thieves, all members of Berlin-based Remmo clan, a German-Lebanese family with a long history of organised crime. Some of the men are known to Berlin police, who suspect them of involvement in the theft of a 100kg gold coin from a Berlin museum in March 2017.

Dresden prosecutors say they have files on a further 40 people suspected of involvement but, as yet, no concrete evidence linking them to the raid.

Given the high-profile case, and the notoriety of the Remmo family, the case is taking place under high security, with armed guards and bullet-proof separating the public gallery from the courtroom. In total 50 hearing days are planned until October.

The guardians of the Dresden royal jewels said they remained confident the missing pieces will eventually turn up.

Dr Marius Winzeler, director of the Green Vault, said: “We will not rest until we have the jewels back.”

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin