6 men on trial over spectacular Dresden museum jewelry heist

BERLIN (AP) — Six men went on trial Friday in Germany over a spectacular theft of 18th-century treasures from Dresden’s Green Vault Museum in 2019.

The defendants, aged 22 to 28, appeared before a regional court in the eastern German city accused of gang robbery and arson. The heist is alleged to have resulted in the theft of 21 items of jewelry comprising about 4,300 gems worth more than 113 million euros ($126 million).

In their opening statement, prosecutors said the men were armed with a revolver and a pistol with a silencer, German news agency dpa reported.

The Green Vault is one of the world’s oldest museums. It was established in 1723 and contains the treasury of Augustus the Strong of Saxony, comprising around 4,000 objects in gold, precious stones and other materials.

The stolen jewelry has not been recovered. The head of Saxony’s State Art Collection in Dresden, Marion Ackermann, said she hoped international attention surrounding the treasures would make it harder for them to be sold, dpa reported.

Two of the men on trial were convicted in 2020 for a similar heist, the theft of a 100-kilogram (220 pound) Canadian gold coin dubbed the “Big Maple Leaf” from Berlin’s Bode Museum in 2017.

The coin, with an estimated value of 3.75 million euros, also has not been recovered. Authorities suspect that it was likely cut up into smaller pieces and sold off.