Newly released surveillance video captured the moment a pair of brazen burglars who broke into a renowned German museum used an ax to bust a display case to steal priceless 18th-century jewelry.
The footage shows the thieves walking into Dresden’s Grünes Gewölbe museum, or Green Vault, after smashing a window to gain entry for the smash-and-grab, according to NBC News.
Using a flashlight, the pair appear to target the display case, which one of them bashes with the ax to swipe the jewelry from Saxony ruler Augustus the Strong.
Dresden police Chief Joerg Kubiessa told broadcaster ZDF that a “criminal gang” may be behind the robbery, which local media have called the biggest art heist of all time.
The thieves launched their raid after setting off a fire at an electrical panel near the museum early Monday, deactivating its alarm as well as street lighting, police said.
Despite the power outage, a surveillance camera kept working and captured two duo breaking in.
“The whole act lasted only a few minutes,” said police in a statement.
The suspects then took off in an Audi A6 and remain on the lam. The apparent getaway vehicle was found ablaze later elsewhere in the city, police said, adding that it was being examined for clues.
Amid speculation mounting that the thieves would extract the diamonds from individual pieces for sale separately, Green Vault director Dirk Syndram said they would be “stupid to do that.”
“They’re all 18-century cuts. You can’t just turn these stones into cash,” he told the DPA news agency, adding that breaking them up would lower their value.
Museum officials have refused to put a financial figure on the value of the bling, but Marion Ackermann, director of Dresden’s state art collections, has said the items are “of inestimable art-historical and cultural-historical value”.
“We cannot put an exact value on them because they are priceless,” she added.
Among the items stolen were a sword whose hilt is encrusted with nine large and 770 smaller diamonds, as well as a diamond bow decorated with 662 gems.
One of the museum’s most valuable pieces, the Dresden Green Diamond, is currently on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where it is a headline attraction in the temporary exhibition “Making Marvels: Science and Splendor at the Courts of Europe.”
German Culture Minister Monika Gruetters said that the protection of cultural institutions was now of “the highest priority.”
“The theft of items which make up our identity as a nation of culture strikes at our hearts,” she said.
Dresden police said they also are in contact with their colleagues in Berlin to explore possible ties to a similar heist in the capital two years ago, according to AFP.
In 2017, a 220-pound, 24-karat giant gold coin was stolen from Berlin’s Bode Museum. Four men with links to a notorious Berlin gang were later arrested and put on trial. The coin has never been recovered.’
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