Ber­lin clan ‘stole $6m coin’

The Weekend Australian - - WORLD - OLIVER MOODY

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.”

AP

The Big Maple Leaf in Ber­lin’s Bode Mu­seum in 2010

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