Four security guards working at Dresden’s Royal Palace are under investigation for their suspected involvement in the biggest jewellery heist since the Second World War.
Germany was left in shock when priceless treasures including three sets of diamonds thought to be worth €1bn were whisked from the Green Vault of the museum in an early morning raid after a fire cut power to the building.
Investigators have long suspected the robbers had inside knowledge of the layout of rooms where the treasures were kept and the museum’s ‘Fort Knox-like’ security system.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel standing next to museum director Dirk Syndram during her visit to the Gruenes Gewoelbe (or Green Vault) at the Royal Palace in the eastern German city of Dresden in 2006
Police officers working behind a taped off area at the Schinkelwache building on November 25 following the brazen heist at Dresden’s Green Vault
Two security guards who were on duty in the early hours of November 25, when the raid was carried out, are suspected of helping the thieves as they did not confront the robbers, the
They also called police to report the robbery instead of pressing a panic alarm, possibly costing valuable time and allowing the burglars to escape in a getaway car.
A third guard, who was arrested on November 29, is thought to have passed on information about the museum’s floor-plan and security measures.
And a fourth guard is suspected of meddling with the alarm system, enabling the thieves to smash open the cases containing the glittering jewels unhindered.
The suspects have ‘behaved cooperatively’, chief prosecutor Jurgen Schmidt told Bild newspaper, and ‘initially said they wanted to speak to investigators, but subsequently they reserved their right to silence’.
Seven people are thought to have been involved in the robbery.
Stolen: A cabinet of 18th-century jewellery (left) which was smashed open and looted by burglars at a German museum at 5am on November 25, causing an ‘immeasurable’ loss
The jewels were stolen after thieves set fire to a junction box, cutting power to the museum’s alarms, then managed to get through a small gap in a grille of a window on the ground floor
The pieces stolen from the Royal Palace that houses the historic Green Vault including a hairpin Maria Josephas (right) with large diamond by Johann Melchior Dinglinger from 1713 and reworked in 1719 is in the exhibition ‘Splendor et laetitia’
A hat clasp of the diamond rose set (left) and a Breast Star of the Polish White Eagle Order (right) that were stolen from the Green Vault. The Breast Star briefly resurfaced in January when it was offered to an Israeli security firm through the dark web
A chain of 177 Saxon pearls (left) and a hair aigrette in the form of a crescent moon (right) that were both stolen from the Green Vault
Museum directors have previously described the thought of thieves having inside knowledge as the ‘worst thing imaginable’.
They have appealed to them not to break up the stolen items – three jewellery sets commissioned by Saxony’s former ruler Augustus the Strong as a show of power. However, experts fear the objects have already been destroyed as they are too recognisable to be sold on the open market.
However, The Dresden White Diamond and the breast star of the Polish Order of the White Eagle both briefly resurfaced in January after they were offered to an Israeli security firm through the dark net for £7.9million.
After disabling the building’s power supply with a fire at a junction box, the thieves broke in through a window. Under cover of darkness they cracked open the display cases with axes before making off with the jewels.
Police said they were called at 4.59am and arrived within minutes, but the burglars had already left in an Audi A6.
Picking through the wreckage, state museum director Marion Ackermann said that diamond-encrusted shoe buckles and buttons, the queen’s pearl necklaces and a diamond-studded sword had been left behind.
‘The cabinets are not empty’, she said, voicing the hope that some of the stolen items may yet be found.
An aigrette for the hair in the form of a sun (left) and a jewel in palmette shape (right) that were stolen from the Green Vault in Dresden
An ‘epaulette’ of the diamond rose set (left) and a jewel of the Polish White Eagle Order (right) that were stolen from the Green Vault
The Dresden White Diamond briefly resurfaced on the dark web in January when it was offered to an Israeli security firm for £7.5million along with the breast star of the Polish Order
One of the pieces (above) stolen from the Royal Palace that houses the historic Green Vault (Gruenes Gewoelbe) in Dresden
Dresden’s Green Vault takes its name from the green-coloured columns and decoration in rooms such as this one
Treasures: Visitors look at the collection in Dresden’s Green Vault which dates back to the 18th century and contains thousands of items
The lost treasures have been likened to the ‘crown jewels’ of Saxony, and akin to the Queen’s treasures kept in the Tower of London.
Saxony’s 18th-century ruler Augustus the Strong competed with French monarch Louis XIV to assemble the most extravagant jewellery, museum director Marion Ackermann explained yesterday, describing the items stolen as ‘state treasures of the 18th century’.
Augustus, who was elector of Saxony from 1694 to 1733 and also king of Poland for much of that time, established Dresden as a cultural centre and founded the museum which was targeted on Monday.
The museum also houses a 25-inch figure of a Moor studded with emeralds and a 648-carat sapphire gifted by Tsar Peter I of Russia at a meeting in 1698.
Other valuable items include a jewel-studded sculpture of an Indian royal court, made out of gold, silver, enamel, precious stones and pearls.
Another is a 1701 golden coffee service by court jeweller Johann Melchior Dinglinger, decorated with lounging cherubs.