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Dutch man nabbed over scam linked to German jewel heist

A Dutch man has been arrested and transferred to Germany on charges of fraudulently offering stolen loot from a spectacular 2019 robbery at a state museum of priceless 18th-century jewels, prosecutors said Thursday.

The state prosecutor’s office in the eastern city of Dresden said the 54-year-old suspect, who was not named, had claimed to have been offered a valuable piece snatched during the audacious heist and would arrange its sale back to the rightful owners.

Authorities believe several members of a notorious criminal family carried out the brazen night-time raid on the Green Vault museum in 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.

To this day, there is no trace of the jewels, including a sword with a diamond-encrusted hilt and a shoulder piece which contains the famous 49-carat Dresden white diamond.

The suspect now in German custody 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 ($41,400).

After preliminary checks of the facts presented, the detective agreed and the sum was handed over to the suspect in cash.

“But counter to his claims, the suspect fled with the money,” prosecutors said in a statement.

Once his identity was established, authorities found the man had a lengthy criminal record.

He was in Dutch custody in March this year when he was named as the alleged culprit in the retrieval scam and was transferred to Dresden this month where he will be tried.

Several suspects are already on trial for the heist, all members of the so-called “Remmo clan”, an extended family known for a web of ties to organised crime in Germany.

Insurance experts say the loot is worth at least 113.8 million euros, with German media dubbing it the biggest art heist in modern history.