German police say they have recovered 31 objects stolen from the Green Vault Museum (Grünes Gewölbe) in Dresden in 2019—one of the most audacious art heists in recent years.
“On the night of 16-17 December in Berlin, the public prosecutor’s office in Dresden, the Soko Epaulette [police force] and the LKA Sachsen [state office of criminal investigation] seized a significant part of the stolen goods stolen during the break-in into the historic Green Vault,” says Marion Ackermann, director general of the Dresden State Art Collections, in a statement.
The recovery of the objects was announced during the trial of six men—brother and cousins aged between 23 and 28—which began in January and is due to resume this week. According to the Guardian, “exploratory talks” between the defence and the prosecution teams in court led to a breakthrough, said police and prosecutors.
All of the stolen items were made during the rule of Frederick Augustus III, the last Elector of Saxony (1750-1827). “After an initial inspection, there are 31 individual pieces, including several pieces that appear to be complete, such as the hat decoration (heron tail) and the breast star of the Polish Order of the White Eagle from the diamond set. Among other things, the epaulette with the Saxon White that was damaged during the theft and the large breast bow of Queen Amalie Auguste are missing,” Ackermann adds.
Security camera footage of the theft on 25 November 2019 showed two intruders armed with an axe smashing a vitrine that housed more than 20 royal jewels. The thieves had previously plunged the entire street into darkness with an arson attack on an electricity distribution point. They set off a fire extinguisher to erase their traces. The objects stolen are reportedly worth an estimated £100m.
By the time the police arrived, five minutes after guards spotted the intruders on CCTV and alerted them, the burglars had gone. Their getaway was meticulously planned: an Audi A6 was found burning in an underground garage, where it is assumed they had parked a second vehicle.
The Green Vault displays the baroque treasury of August the Strong, an extraordinary collection of gold, silver, diamonds, rock crystal and other precious materials crafted into unique objects. August the Strong built the lavish treasury between 1723 and 1730.