Berlin clan ‘stole $6m coin’
In the dead hours of a dark night in March 2017 three hooded men staged an outrageous break-in at a Berlin museum. Their target: a giant coin with the Queen’s face stamped on 100kg of solid gold.
The sequel to the Big Maple Leaf robbery is being played out in a Berlin court. Four young men were charged on Thursday with one of the most audacious thefts in modern German history.
Two brothers and their cousin are alleged to have clambered into the Bode museum through a second-floor window, shattered a case of bulletproof glass and stolen the coin, which measured 53cm in diameter and was valued at £3.4 million ($6m).
The fourth suspect, a schoolfriend of one of the defendants who was a guard at the museum, is accused of tipping them off about the room’s layout and its security arrangements. Prosecutors said three of the men made their way on to a raised section of railway next to the back wall of the museum at about 3.30am on March 27, 2017, during a two-hour lull in the train schedule.
The suspects, members of one of Berlin’s German-Arab crime families, or clans, were seen on CCTV casing the gallery two days earlier, the court was told. They allegedly set up a ladder, forced their way in through a window, smashed the glass case with an axe and moved the coin out of the room on a wheeled pallet. They manhandled it down the track to a park and lifted it into their car.
The coin has not been recov- ered and investigators fear that it was melted down so that the gold could be sold without attracting attention. The Big Maple Leaf, one of six such coins produced in 2007 by the Royal Canadian Mint, was on loan to the Bode from a private collector. It had a face value of $C1m ($1.04m), although the value of the gold itself was far higher.
Police were alerted to the theft at 4am. Days later they arrested the security guard, a 20-year-old German-Turkish man named as Denis W. Shortly after the coin went missing he is said to have bought himself a gold chain for more than €10,000.
In July the Remmo brothers, Ahmed, 20, and Wayci, 24, and their cousin, Wissam Remmo, 22, were arrested in an elaborate raid involving 300 officers. Traces of gold allegedly were found in their car. All four deny the allegations. A lawyer for the brothers told the court that the prosecution had yet to present “a single piece of compelling evidence” against them.
The trial is expected to give an insight into the world of the Berlin clans, which control the city’s traffic in drugs and weapons. During the investigation police impounded 77 of the family’s properties in Lebanon, with a total value of €9.3m ($14.8m), allegedly bought with the proceeds of crime.
A member of the clan, Toufic Remmo, was convicted for his role in a bank robbery in eastern Berlin, in 2014. The family also has been accused of murdering a 43year-old member of a rival clan with a baseball bat in 2017 over an unpaid debt of €100,000.
Falko Liecke, deputy mayor of Neukolln, an area of Berlin with many clan strongholds, said the trial was an opportunity to strip them of their “coolness factor”. He told local radio: “I think they made it very clear with this crime that they are the sheriffs in this city and they can take this kind of liberty. That’s why we need to deliver an unmistakeable signal — otherwise we have lost.”
The Big Maple Leaf in Berlin’s Bode Museum in 2010