art theft

Three Members of an Infamous German Crime Family Have Confessed to Participating in the Green Vault Heist

Three members of a prominent German crime syndicate have admitted to playing parts in the historic Green Vault heist.

The confessions came in a regional court in Dresden, where six suspects are on trial for their alleged participation in the night-time theft of $123 million worth of jewels from the city’s Grünes Gewölbe—or Green Vault—museum in 2019.

As part of sentencing deal, one of the defendants, Rabieh Remmo, admitted in a statement that he and an unnamed accomplice broke into the institution in the early hours of November 25, 2019, according to the Associated French Press

“My contribution to the crime was larger than I first said,” Remmo said, alluding to a partial confession he gave last year. “I was, myself, in the rooms of the Green Vault.”

Inside, Remmo and his partner used an ax to smash a vitrine holding numerous prized jewels, many of which date back to the late 1700s and were once owned by Saxony’s 18th-century ruler, Augustus the Strong, who founded the museum.

The thieves stashed the jewels in a sack, then used a fire extinguisher to erase traces of their DNA at the scene. Remmo and his co-conspirator fled the scene with other accomplices, burned their getaway car in a parking garage, then drove to Berlin in a vehicle disguised as a taxi.

Defendants sit next to their lawyers at the Higher Regional Court in Dresden, eastern Germany on January 10, 2023, prior to a hearing in the trial over a jewelry heist at the Green Vault museum in Dresden’s Royal Palace. Photo: Jens Schlueter/Pool/AFP via Getty Images.

Authorities in Germany announced last month that they retrieved 31 items stolen in the Green Vault heist after being pointed to their location as part of a deal with the suspect on trial. Other historically significant objects stolen in 2019—including the 49-carat Dresden White Diamond—remain missing. 

“I didn’t keep the loot. I didn’t have access to it,” Remmo said in court. “I don’t know what happened to it. I did all I could to ensure that what was left came back to Dresden.”

Two other suspects on trial, Wissam and Mohamed Remmo, also confessed to aiding the robbery. In statements read by their respective attorneys, the men explained that they didn’t enter the museum but instead waited outside as lookouts. 

A fourth defendant is expected to present a statement of his own in court this week, as part of a sentencing deal. Another suspect rejected the deal, while a sixth and final suspect on trial claims he did not participate in the theft. 

The defendants, all members of the extended Remmo crime family, have been on trial since January 2022. They face charges related to aggravated gang theft and serious arson, according to Dresden’s public prosecutor’s office.

Last week, the court recommended jail sentences that ranged in time from four years and nine months to six years and nine months. Hearings will continue later this week.

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Have You Seen This Art? Austrian Officials Are Searching for 21 Works That a Priest May Have Swiped From a Benedictine Abbey

A benedictine abbey in Kremsmünster, Austria, a town of just over 6,000 people, has been shaken from its relative calm as its clergy deals with an ongoing investigation into a slew of historic missing cultural property.

The theft, which was first made public last May and remains unresolved, reappeared in the headlines last week when the Austria public prosecutor’s office and the federal criminal police office circulated images of 21 pieces from the abbey’s collection that remain missing, including paintings and antiquities.

During a routine inventory check last May, the abbey’s custodian of the collection found that 50 objects had disappeared (three 17th-century firearms and 47 paintings).

According to public prosecutor Andreas Pechatschek, the primary suspect in the case is a former priest at the monastery, who has been under investigation since August 2020. Austrian media reports say he cared for the art collection between 1997 and 2017, but that he was not permitted to sell—or even lend—the trove, which consists of around 2,200 paintings, 70 icons, 2,000 copper engravings, as well as other early medieval antiquities. The abbey dates back to the year 777.

The prosecutor’s office tells Midnight Publishing Group News that 20 objects have been retrieved from dealers and private collections in Austria since the theft came to light. The police report values the full slate of stolen artworks and antiques at €300,000 ($360,780). Objects still at large include a work by Baroque painter Philipp Peter Roos, a small canvas by Johann Wilhelm Bauer, and an antique hourglass.

According to a report in Kronen Zeitung, the previous custodian is suspected of having sold the pieces to cover the cost of restoring others.

This is not the first known theft at the medieval abbey. Its oldest painting, The Last Supper, by the artist Meister von Raigern and dated to around 1415, went missing in 2006. That same year, a book of astronomical drawings worth about €30,000 that was on loan to the abbey went missing during an exhibition there. The Kronen  Zeitung reported at the time that the security cameras were defective—and the book had been replaced by a fake during the show’s run.

On January 26, the Austria authorities put out wanted ads for the works that remain missing. See some of the images below—and get in touch if you have spotted them in the wild.

A painting of unstated origin and date depicting Peasant rebel Andreas Hofer. Image via Federal Criminal Police Office of Austria.

A painting of unstated origin and date depicting Peasant rebel Andreas Hofer. Image via Federal Criminal Police Office of Austria.

Painting by Philipp Peter Roos. Image via Federal Criminal Police Office of Austria.

Painting with unknown title and date by Johann Wilhelm Bauer. Image via Federal Criminal Police Office of Austria.

Painting with unknown title and date by Johann Wilhelm Bauer. Image via Federal Criminal Police Office of Austria.

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