A German court has sentenced five gang members to up to six years in prison for snatching precious 18th-century jewels from the Dresden Museum in what has been described as the largest art theft in modern European history.
The convicts, who appeared to be released on Tuesday after relatively light sentences, are members of the “Remo clan”, an extended family based primarily in Berlin and known for its network of ties to organized crime.
The coins stolen in the robbery at the Gruenes Gewoelbe Museum (Green Vault) in Dresden in 2019 contained more than 4,300 diamonds, valued at more than €113 million ($123 million).
These included the breastplate star of the Polish Order of the White Eagle and a headdress set with diamonds. However, the police said that most of the stolen jewelry had been recovered.
Six German men, in their twenties, have been charged with burglary and arson.
Five members of the same family were sentenced to prison terms ranging from four years and four months to six years and two months. A sixth member of the family was acquitted.
The plea bargain has been criticized, with the head of the Berlin prosecutors’ association, Ralf Knispel, saying that the defendants are not required to disclose their accomplices.
“The question is what message is being sent” to other criminals, Knispel told public broadcaster RBB.
Prosecutors said the men had previously opened part of the window screen and put it back in place to get into the building as quickly as possible during the robbery.
Dresden’s stolen collection was amassed in the 18th century by Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony and later King of Poland, who demanded more of the lustrous jewels as part of his rivalry with French King Louis XIV.
The treasures survived Allied bombing raids during World War II, only to be recovered as spoils of war by the Soviet Union. They were brought back to Dresden, the historic capital of Saxony, in 1958.