Monday, 21 August, 2017

Germany makes arrests over theft of giant solid-gold coin

A Canadian $1m Big Maple Leaf coin identical to that stolen from Berlin's Bode Museum A Canadian $1m Big Maple Leaf coin identical to that stolen from Berlin's Bode Museum Peter Bader Reuters
Felix Bryan | 13 July, 2017, 00:17

German special police have arrested several people suspected of having carried out the old-fashioned heist of a €4m (£3.6m) 100kg gold in Berlin.

As DW reported in late March, the group of thieves likely broke into Berlin's Bode Museum from an elevated section of tram tracks which run alongside the museum walls.

But they found no sign of the loot - Canada's "Big Maple Leaf" coin, which has a face value of one million Canadian dollars and is estimated to be worth 3.75 million euros (USD 4.3 million) on the gold market.

A spokesperson confirmed newspaper reports that the suspects arrested at two properties in the Neukölln district were members of an "Arabic-Kurdish clan" known to investigators in connection with drug smuggling, arms trading and racketeering.

Last week, police released CCTV footage of suspects at a local train station.

"We've got enough evidence to charge them", said Carsten Pfohl of the Berlin regional criminal force, who headed the investigation into one of the most audacious robberies in recent German history.

Experts think the coin may have been melted down already to cash in on the gold. He added that police also confiscated clothes and cars to comb for traces of gold. Police also searched a jewelry store in the Berlin neighborhood, saying they had indications the store may have been involved in the possible sale of the gold.

While one side of these coins features a hand-polished maple leaf design by Royal Canadian Mint artist and engraver Stan Witten, the other bears the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II by celebrated Canadian portrait artist Susanna Blunt.

"It is 100 kilos, made by the Canadian Mint, and is of high purity", Bernhard Weisser, director of the museum's coin department, said in an interview. They grabbed the coin, loaded it onto a wheelbarrow and then carted it out of the building and along the tracks across the Spree river before descending into a park on a rope and fleeing in a getaway vehicle.

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