Berlin — A German court on Tuesday convicted five men over the theft of 18th-century jewels worth almost $130 million from a Dresden museum in 2019. They were sentenced to prison for terms ranging from four years and four months to six years and three months, German news agency dpa reported. One defendant was acquitted.
The Dresden state court ruled that the five men — aged 24 to 29 —were responsible for the break-in at the eastern German city’s Green Vault Museum on Nov. 25, 2019, and the theft of 21 pieces of jewelry containing more than 4,300 diamonds, with a total insured value of at least $129 million. Officials said at the time that the items taken included a large diamond brooch and a diamond epaulette.
They were convicted of particularly aggravated arson in combination with dangerous bodily injury, theft with weapons, damage to property and intentional arson.
The men laid a fire just before the break-in to cut the power supply to street lights outside the museum, and also set fire to a car in a nearby garage before fleeing to Berlin. They were caught several months later in raids in Berlin.
In January, there was a plea bargain between the defense, prosecution and court after most of the stolen jewels were returned.
The plea bargain had been agreed to by four defendants, who subsequently admitted their involvement in the crime through their lawyers. The fifth defendant also confessed, but only to the procurement of objects such as the axes used to make holes in the museum display case, dpa reported.
The state of Saxony, where Dresden is located, had claimed damages of almost 89 million euros in court — for the pieces that were returned damaged, for those still missing and for repairs to the destroyed display cases and the museum building.
The Green Vault is one of the world’s oldest museums. It was established in 1723 and contains the treasury of Augustus the Strong of Saxony, comprising around 4,000 objects of gold, precious stones and other materials.
Arthur Brand, a prominent investigator of stolen art, told CBS News correspondent Roxana Saberi not long after the heist that such easily-identifiable stolen artifacts would have been impossible to sell on the open market.
“Art can be money. But you cannot sell it; once it’s in the criminal underworld, it stays there,” he said.