Five members of a notorious mafia family have been jailed for one of the most audacious robberies in recent German history – the theft of diamond-encrusted jewels collected by the Saxonian monarchy.
The men, all aged under 30, were sentenced to jail terms of between four and six years over their role in the heist from the Green Vault museum in Dresden by the city court on Tuesday.
During court proceedings, the men detailed how they came up with the idea of robbing the museum after a friend visited it on a school trip. The men are close relatives and share the surname Remmo.
German investigators say that the Remmo family is one of Berlin’s most powerful mafia families. It is suspected of involvement in drug trafficking and a series of bank robberies.
The men were handed relatively light sentences after doing a deal with authorities late last year in which they handed back 18 of the 21 ornaments and made confessions.
The length of the jail terms has come in for criticism from some quarters, with Berlin’s prosecutor’s association claiming it would encourage the mafia to act “more offensively” in the future.
Dresden’s police have said however that they would have never seen the historical jewels again if they had not done a deal with the thieves.
Investigators have described the heist as “part Sunday league, part Champions League” due to the fact that the perpetrators mixed meticulous preparation with amateurish mistakes.
Their careful preparations involved cutting through the bars of a window a week beforehand and gluing the bars back into place.
They also disguised their getaway vehicle as a taxi, cleverly recognising that police would be less likely to control a taxi than a private vehicle.
But several of the thieves didn’t wear gloves while they smashed through the museum’s display cabinets, meaning that they left DNA traces that proved key to the subsequent investigation.
The trove of jewels included a breast star of the Polish Order of the White Eagle and an ornate diamond head-dress collected in the 18th century by Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony.
The thieves appear to have been unable to sell most of their booty on the black market and handed most of it back albeit in a damaged state.
Ringleader Wissam Remmo has admitted to carrying out an equally high profile robbery of a 100-kilogram gold coin from a Berlin museum.
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