by Björn Schöpe
translated by Almuth Klingner
July 26, 2018 – The Berlin police reportedly struck a crucial blow against members of the Lebanese mafia clan R. Over the course of the investigation, information may also come to light regarding the fate of the Big Maple Leaf, which was stolen from the Berlin Bode Museum in spring 2017.
Big Maple Leaf. © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Münzkabinett; Photo: Reinhard Saczewski.
To date, the 100-kilogram gold coin Big Maple Leaf, with a material value of 3.7 million euros, has not been found. Experts and investigators fear that it was smelted.
In June 2017, the police arrested four people, three of whom – members of the Lebanese R. family – supposedly were recognized on surveillance camera footage. The fourth suspect was their presumed contact person inside the museum.
The police seized numerous properties and documents in Berlin and Brandenburg, as members of the R. family are suspected of money laundering. Photo: symbolic picture.
On July 19, 2018, the Berlin prosecutor’s office announced that 77 properties in Berlin and Brandenburg worth 9.3 million euros, belonging to members of the R. family, had been seized. Thousands of documents had been assessed. The operation was possible because of a 2017 change of law. Since then, assets of dubious origin may be provisionally seized until the owners provide proof of having legally generated them. Thanks to a similar law, Italy has been successfully fighting organized crime.
The R. family has been systematically investigated since 2014, when, in a spectacular coup, more than 100 deposit boxes in a savings bank in Berlin-Mariendorf were broken open and the rooms subsequently bombed. The loot of over 9 million euros has not been found until today, the perpetrators could not be identified, but are suspected to belong to the R. family. Many of its members are known to the police and are in prison for property and violent offences.
The Berlin investigators may well stumble upon leads towards the Big Maple Leaf over the course of their investigation, so that the perpetrators can at least be convicted.
In English, the Daily Mail reported, featuring numerous pictures.
The German media contain detailed reports, as in the Sächsische Zeitung, the Focus magazine, the Tagesspiegel and the Deutsche Wirtschaftsnachrichten.