German police yesterday arrested three suspects over a spectacular heist a year ago in which more than a dozen diamond-encrusted items were snatched from a state museum in Dresden.
Investigators were also raiding 18 properties in Berlin, including 10 apartments as well as garages and vehicles, police and prosecutors said in a statement.
“The measures today are focused on the search for the stolen art treasures and possible evidence, such as data storage media, clothing and tools,” they said.
In what local media have described as the biggest art heist in modern history, the robbers had launched their brazen raid on Green Vault museum in Dresden’s Royal Palace on Nov. 25.
Having initiated a partial power cut and broken in through a window, they snatched priceless 18th-century jewelry from the collection of the Saxon ruler August the Strong.
Items stolen included a sword whose hilt is encrusted with nine large and 770 smaller diamonds, and a shoulderpiece that contains the famous 49-carat Dresden white diamond, Dresden’s Royal Palace had said.
Dramatic CCTV footage released at that time showed one of the robbers breaking into a display case with an axe.
Police hunting for the suspects had launched several appeals, offering up to 500,000 euros (US$593,055) in reward for information leading to their arrests.
About 1,600 officers were deployed yesterday in the raids and arrests, with special reinforcements called in from across the country to help in what was code-named Special Commission Epaulette — after one of the stolen precious pieces.
Police did not identify the three arrested, but said they are German citizens.
All three are accused of “serious gang robbery and two counts of arson,” Dresden prosecutors said.
Germany’s best-selling daily Bild said several of the addresses raided in Berlin were linked to a family of Arab origin notorious for ties to organized crime.
The so-called “Remmo clan” had been implicated in another high-profile robbery of the Bode Museum in the heart of Berlin in which a 100kg gold coin was stolen.
Investigators probing the Dresden break-in had said they were examining links to the gold coin robbery.
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