German authorities said Saturday they had found a “considerable portion” of items stolen in a spectacular 2019 robbery of priceless 18th-century jewels from a state museum.
The authorities retrieved a total of 31 items in the night of Friday to Saturday in the capital Berlin, the police and prosecutors said.
The discovery comes in the middle of the trial of six suspects over the brazen night-time raid on the Green Vault museum in the eastern city of Dresden’s Royal Palace in November 2019.
The thieves grabbed 21 pieces of jewellery and other valuables from the collection of the Saxon ruler Augustus the Strong, encrusted with more than 4,300 individual diamonds.
Insurance experts had said the loot stolen in 2019 was worth at least 113.8 million euros ($120 million at the current rate), with German media dubbing it the biggest art heist in modern history.
The jewels included a sword with a diamond-encrusted hilt and a shoulder piece which contains the famous 49-carat Dresden white diamond.
There had been no trace of the jewels.
But “exploratory talks” between the defence and the prosecution towards a possible settlement and the return of the stolen items led to a breakthrough, police and prosecutors said, without providing further details.
Special police have escorted the retrieved items from Berlin back to Dresden, they said.
Experts are now to examine them to verify their authenticity.
Some pieces remain missing, however, including a brooch that belonged to Queen Amalie Auguste of Saxony.
– Organised crime –
Suspects on trial for the raid are members of the so-called “Remmo clan”, an extended family known for a web of ties to organised crime in Germany.
Two were minors at the time of the crime.
The trial, which opened in January, is set to resume on Tuesday.
The defendants face up to ten years in prison.
Some 40 people are still wanted and believed to be involved in the audacious heist.
Last month a Dutch man was arrested and transferred to Germany on charges of fraudulently offering stolen loot from the robbery.
The state prosecutor’s office in Dresden said the 54-year-old suspect, who was not named, had claimed to have been offered a valuable piece snatched during the theft.
The suspect is believed to have contacted a Dutch art detective in December 2021 and claimed to be a diamond dealer from Antwerp.
He told the investigator that he had been offered the opportunity to buy back a historic Polish medal that had belonged to the museum for 40,000 euros.
He then fled with the money, according to prosecutors in November, who said he had a lengthy criminal record. (AFP)