German Green Vault jewelry robbery trial opens in Dresden

BERLIN, January 28 (Reuters)Six men accused of taking part in a 2019 jewelry heist at a museum housing one of Europe’s largest art collections appeared in court in Dresden on Friday, with the whereabouts of the treasures remaining a mystery.

The defendants, German citizens between the ages of 22 and 27, who have not been named under German privacy laws applicable to the defendants, are charged with aggravated collective theft and aggravated arson, according to the Dresden public prosecutor’s office.

They are suspected of breaking into Dresden’s Gruenes Gewoelbe (Green Vault) museum in the early hours of November 25, 2019 and stealing 21 jewels containing more than 4,300 diamonds with an estimated value of 113 million euros ($125.79 million).

Unarmed museum security officers noticed the theft but were unable to intervene because they were not authorized to put themselves in danger, Der Spiegel magazine reported.

Prosecutors said in September that the defendants had not provided any information about the allegations. Police have offered 500,000 euros ($556,600) as a reward to anyone who can provide information on the whereabouts of the jewels.

All suspects are in custody. Two of them have already been sentenced to four and a half years in prison for taking part in the theft of the Great Maple Leaf, a 100-kilogram gold coin worth 3.75 million euros in Bode Museum in Berlin in 2017.

The Stolen Dresden Collection was assembled in the 18th century by Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony and future King of Poland, who commissioned ever shinier jewelry as part of his rivalry with French King Louis XIV.

The treasures survived Allied bombing raids in World War II, only to be taken as spoils of war by the Soviet Union. They were returned to Dresden, the historic state capital of Saxony, in 1958.

($1 = 0.8983 euros)

(Reporting by Riham Alkousaa Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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