Trial in Germany's Green Vault jewel heist opens in Dresden

  • World
  • Friday, 28 Jan 2022

General view of the Dresden castle, which houses the Green Vault museum, in Dresden, Germany, January 26, 2022. Picture taken January, 26, 2022. REUTERS/Matthias Rietschel

BERLIN (Reuters) - Six men accused of involvement in a 2019 jewel heist at a museum housing one of Europe's greatest art collections appeared in court in Dresden on Friday, with the whereabouts of the treasures still a mystery.

The defendants, German citizens aged between 22 and 27, who were not named under German privacy laws applicable to court defendants, are charged with aggravated gang theft and serious arson, according to the Dresden public prosecutor's office.

They are suspected of breaking into Dresden's Gruenes Gewoelbe (Green Vault) Museum in the early hours of Nov. 25, 2019 and stealing 21 pieces of jewellery containing more than 4,300 diamonds with an estimated value of 113 million euros ($125.79 million).

Unarmed museum security officers noticed the robbery but could not intervene as they were not allowed to endanger themselves, Der Spiegel newsmagazine reported.

Prosecutors said in September the defendants had not provided any information on the allegations. Police offered 500,000 euros ($556,600) as a reward for anyone who could give information on the jewels' whereabouts.

All the suspects are in custody. Two have already been sentenced to four and a half years in prison for involvement in stealing the Big Maple Leaf, a 100-kilogram gold coin worth 3.75 million euros from Berlin's Bode Museum in 2017.

The stolen Dresden collection was assembled in the 18th century by Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony and later King of Poland, who commissioned ever more brilliant jewellery as part of his rivalry with France's King Louis XIV.

The treasures 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.

($1 = 0.8983 euros)

(Reporting by Riham Alkousaa; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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