Defendants reveal in court how they pulled off a brazen theft of $123 million worth of jewels at Deutsches Museum

Three members of a notorious criminal gang confessed stealing priceless jewels from the 18th century from a German state museum at her trial on Tuesday in Dresden.

Rabieh Remmo, one of six accused, told the district court in Oststadt that he and an unnamed accomplice broke into the Green Vault Museum brazen night raid in November 2019.

The 29-year-old said they smashed the glass of the showcases “with an axe” and stuffed the jewelry into a sack they had brought with them, in a statement during a criminal case.

The accomplice then used a fire extinguisher to destroy all traces of his DNA, he said.

Defendant Rabieh R (C) covers his face as he arrives in the courtroom of the Higher Regional Court in Dresden, east Germany, January 10, 2023, ahead of a hearing in the trial of a jewelry robbery at the Green Vault (Gruenes Gewoelbe). Museum in the Dresden Residenzschloss in November 2019.


The group, who surrounded the museum on two previous trips, fled in a getaway car to a parking garage, where they set fire to the vehicle to cover their tracks before returning to Berlin. An Audi A6 was found on fire in an underground parking lot by police, CBS News’ Roxana Saberi reported.

“My contribution to the crime was greater than I first said,” Remmo admitted after a partial confession last year. “I was in the rooms of the Green Vault myself.”

Two of the accused, Wissam and Mohamed Remmo, told the court in statements read by their lawyers that they had taken part in the spectacular robbery.

However, both said they did not enter the museum but stood guard and took the stolen goods and tools used in the burglary.

The idea came about after a younger friend “returned from an excursion to the Green Vault in Dresden and raved about the green diamonds on display there”.

A fourth defendant said he would make a statement at the next hearing on Friday under an agreement between defense attorneys and prosecutors that was approved by the court last week.

Arthur Brand, a prominent stolen art investigator, said CBS News that it would be impossible to sell such identifiable stolen artifacts on the open market.

“Art can be money. But you can’t sell it; once it’s in the criminal underworld, it stays there,” he said.

How the Dresden museum robbery happened


In exchange for their confessions and the return of most of the valuable jewels, the accused are to receive lighter sentences.

However, a fifth suspect has turned down the deal, while the sixth and final suspect has told judges he had an alibi for the day of the robbery.

Last week, the court recommended multi-year prison terms for the theft of loot worth at least €113.8 million (currently $123.1 million). German media called it the largest art theft in modern history.

The judges suggested prison terms ranging from four years and nine months to six years and nine months as part of the agreement with the attorneys that resulted in some of the stolen valuables being recovered from a river in mid-December.

The thieves stole 21 pieces of jewelry and other treasures from the collection of the Saxon ruler Augustus the Strong, set with more than 4,300 individual diamonds.

Some of the pieces are still missing, including a brooch that belonged to Queen Amalie Auguste of Saxony, while many of the pieces are badly damaged.

The jewels included a sword with a diamond-encrusted hilt and a pauldron containing the famous 49-carat white Dresden diamond.

“I didn’t keep the loot – I didn’t have access to it. I don’t know what happened to it,” Rabieh said Tuesday. “I have done everything to ensure that what is left comes back to Dresden.”

The accused are members of the so-called Remmo clan, an extended family known for ties to organized crime in Germany.

About 40 people are still wanted and are believed to have been involved in the robbery.

Germany jewelry robbery
FILE – Visitors stand in the Jewel Hall during the reopening of the Green Vault Museum in the Dresden Residential Palace of the Dresden State Art Collections (SKD) in Dresden, Germany, May 30, 2020.

Jens Meyer/AP Defendants reveal in court how they pulled off a brazen theft of $123 million worth of jewels at Deutsches Museum

Rick Schindler

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