The criminal investigation into the Dresden jewel heist already had its first success weeks ago. But nobody expected such a spectacular operation from the police. On 17 November 2020, more than 1,600 police officers were deployed across Berlin, including special units from different German states as well as members of GSG-9, the tactical unit of the German Federal Police. Equipped with machine guns and helmets, the officers raided 18 properties, including ten apartments, garages and vehicles. They seized storage devices and clothing.
The investigations focus on members of the Remmo family, an extended Arab family, many of whose members are involved in criminal activity. In a press conference, the Senator of the Interior of Berlin, Andreas Geisel, made it very clear that he wanted this operation to be viewed as a crackdown on clan crime and ‘a message to that scene’: ‘Nobody should believe that they can defy the state or its laws. The rule of law is the measure of all things. It is only the rule of law that enforces order. And it does so more purposefully and more cleverly than some criminals think.’
Public Searches For Members of the Remmo Clan
During the raids, three men with German citizenship, aged 23, 23 and 26, were arrested for serious gang robbery and arson. They were taken to Dresden, under heavy security, where they were brought before an investigating judge of the local court, who ordered that the suspects be taken into custody. Police are still searching for two other clan members, the 21-year-old twin brothers Abdul Majed and Mohamed Remmo.
The Heist at Dresden’s Green Vault
These five men are suspected of breaking into Dresden’s Historic Green Vault on 25 November 2019. The thieves broke a display case with an axe and stole valuable, bejewelled orders dating back to the time of Augustus the Strong. The heist lasted only minutes; by the time the police arrived, the thieves had already escaped. Later, authorities found their burnt-out getaway car.
The Dresden police contacted an expert in art-related crime from the Berlin State Office of Criminal Investigation and, from the beginning, worked closely with colleagues in Berlin, as the method of the robbery pointed to the involvement of Berlin’s criminal clans. Detectives investigated more than 700 reports from members of the public, analysed traces in the getaway car and footage from the security cameras and recently found the person that had sold the SIM cards that were used during the crime.
Links to the Break-In at the Bode Museum
Indeed, the events in Dresden immediately brought to mind the spectacular break-in at the Bode Museum in 2017, during which the giant gold coin ‘Big Maple Leaf’ was stolen – the work of the Remmo Clan. Multiple family members were sentenced to several years in prison. And here’s the juiciest part: one of them, Wissam Remmo, is now suspected of having also been involved in the Dresden heist. Just two days after the heist in Dresden, he was in court in Erlangen, where he was convicted of stealing hydraulic spreaders from a manufacturer. According to media reports, the thieves may have used the equipment stolen during that burglary to break into the Green Vault in Dresden. This would all have happened during the Bode trial, which ended in February 2020 when the Berlin Regional Court passed a juvenile sentence of four and a half years in prison. Despite both of these convictions, he was released because his lawyer appealed the sentence. Remmo is now in custody in Dresden for the time being.
The State and Clan Crime
This case demonstrates how difficult the state is finding it to deal with clan crime. Especially now that museums are being targeted, conventional security measures are no longer sufficient, as the cases in Berlin and Dresden have demonstrated. The Big Maple Leaf is still missing to this day; it has probably been melted down.
Until recently, the detectives had hoped to retrieve the jewels stolen in Dresden. Now, they don’t sound so optimistic. None of the jewels were recovered in the mass raid in Berlin. The dpa quotes the spokesperson for the Dresden police: ‘The stolen artefacts are included in the search warrants. However, you’d have to be very lucky to find them a year after the robbery.’ In the worst-case scenario, the jewels of Augustus the Strong have met the same fate as the Big Maple Leaf: they’ve been taken apart and the diamonds have been re-cut and sold on piece by piece.
How active the state will be in actually taking action against the criminals following these initial arrests remains to be seen. Even after the theft of the Big Maple Leaf, the process – from the first successful arrest to the verdict – still took a long time; the Remmo clan has excellent lawyers.
The newspaper Berliner Morgenpost has published videos of the police raids in Berlin.
We have published an article about the latest developments in the investigations into the Dresden case.
We also published an article on the sentencing of the suspects in the break-in at the Bode Museum.
Around the same time, we also wrote an article asking why it was taking so long for a verdict to be passed.
In this context, we also discussed the problem of clan crime.