More than three years after stealing Saxony’s priceless crown jewels, four men involved in the November 2019 heist confessed all in court on Tuesday.
The four accused are brothers and cousins and members of a notorious Berlin-based criminal clan. They explained how easy it was to break into Dresden’s Green Vault treasury and remove 21 items from the crown jewel collection of Augustus the Strong, an 18th century Saxon king.
Ringleader Rabieh Remmo, a 29-year-old German man from Berlin, told a Dresden court how he lead two reconnaissance trips to the treasury in the Saxon capital.
“I was amazed that you could move around so freely and unnoticed and that nobody paid attention,” said Mr Remmo, a member of an organised crime clan originally from Lebanon.
During one of these trips the men noticed a corner window of the vault that could be opened without triggering the alarm system.
In advance of the break-in, two gang members, dressed as tradesman, sawed through the iron window grille from the outside, playing music to cover the sound. They used tape to secure the grille then applied spray paint to cover their handiwork.
The men then secured power plans for Dresden’s old town and tracked back the jewel vault’s electricity supply to a nearby transformer box.
Brothers Wissam and Mohamed Remmo said that at about 5am on November 25th, 2019, they set fire to the box. When the electricity supply shorted out, Rabieh Remmo and an accomplice ripped away the museum window grille, climbed inside and rushed to the main jewel room.
“I smashed the [display case] glass with an axe and threw things in a bag,” said Rabieh Remmo. He damaged rare diamond and pearl jewels as he ripped them from their displays.
All four accused said that six people in total were involved in the plans, meaning two accomplices are still at large. They raced to a nearby underground car park and fled the scene.
Two security staff saw the thieves on museum cameras but instead of hitting a special alarm button, they dialled the police emergency number, 110. Within five minutes police were at the scene but the thieves were already gone.
Wissam Remmo served jail time for his role in a 2017 Berlin museum break-in and theft of a 100kg gold coin. That successful break-in made him feel “untouchable” and he got involved in the Dresden heist to finance his drug habit. On the morning of the break-in he said he was “high on cocaine”.
Mohamed Remmo (23) told the court he was “looking for adventure” when he joined up, but regretted his involvement now. “I didn’t think of the consequences and have done everything I could to get the jewels given back,” he said.
Acting on a tip-off, Berlin police recovered most of the stolen jewels before Christmas. Dresden jewel experts say some of the diamonds, pearls and settings have been badly damaged by water and cleaning fluid.
After their confessions on Tuesday, the men are likely to be handed prison terms of up to six years.