Heist Of The Century: Thieves Broke Into A German Museum And Stole $1.1 Billion Worth Of Jewelry

Thieves Broke Into German Museum Stole 1 Billion Worth Of Jewelry

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Calling this the heist of the century is not hyperbole. Thieves broke into a German museum, the Grüne Gewölbe (Green Vault) at the Royal Palace in Dresden, and walked off with jewelry estimated to be worth $1.1 billion – reportedly the biggest art theft since World War II.

Security cameras revealed two men breaking in to the museum through a grilled window, according to Dresden police chief criminal director Volker Lange, who added that there may have been more people involved in the theft of around 100 pieces in the collection.

The most famous item stolen was the 41-carat Dresden green diamond, known as the Dresden Green, which is on loan to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Also included in the theft were a 25-inch figure of a Moor studded with emeralds and a 547.71-carat sapphire gifted by Tsar Peter I of Russia, reports the New York Post.

The story reported by CNN of how the heist went down sounds like something straight out of a movie.

The footage was later released by the Saxony Police. It shows two people wearing dark clothes, moving quickly though the gallery using flashlights. One of them then uses an ax to break the glass — the video shows it takes the perpetrator at least nine hits before the glass breaks.

Lange said that after cutting through a grille and breaking a window, “the suspects came in … walked towards a glass vitrine, smashed it and left, they disappeared.”

A nearby electrical fire knocked out street lights in the area at around the time of the robbery. According a statement released later in the afternoon, the investigators were working on the assumption that the two incidents were related.

The police also said the burglars left the scene in an Audi A6. Lange said the police issued alerts and closed exits on the motorway. An identical car was set on fire in an underground garage in a different part of town shortly after the heist, police added.

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Marion Ackermann, director of Dresden’s State Art Collection, said that the items, owned by the state of Saxony, were not insured.

She also stated that the value of the stolen items is difficult to ascertain, but the Bild newspaper reported that the jewelry is worth up to $1.1 billion.

“We are talking here about items of inestimable art historical and cultural-historical value,” said Ackermann. “We cannot give a value because it is impossible to sell. The material value doesn’t reflect the historic meaning.”

According to Christopher Marinello, the CEO of Art Recovery International, says recovery of these particular items will be difficult because, “The gold can quickly be melted down and the stones re-cut to make them nearly unidentifiable.”

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The Green Vault collection was created in the early 18th century by Augustus the Strong, ruler of Saxony. After surviving Allied bombing in World War II the treasures were taken by the Soviet Union, only to be returned to Dresden in 1958.

“We will do everything in our power not only to bring the cultural treasures back, but to capture the perpetrators,” said Interior Minister Roland Woeller.

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Police have released photos of some of the items stolen in the heist.

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