Germany: Robbers drill into vault, steal 6.5 million euros

Police offer 100,000-euro reward for finding people involved in the criminal operation at the customs office.

Germany has been hit by several high-profile heists, with banks and museums frequent targets [Heinz-Peter Bader/Reuters]

German investigators said on Wednesday they have launched a manhunt for suspects who made off with 6.5 million euros ($7.6m) in cash after breaking into a customs office.

“The break-in was professionally planned and carried out: three as yet unidentified perpetrators used a drill to get to the vault from an adjoining room in the cellar of the building,” police said in a statement.

“From there they stole about 6.5 million euros in cash.”

The heist, which struck the customs office in the western city of Duisburg, took place on Sunday, November 1.

Witnesses said they had heard drilling sounds at about 6am. Three hours later, three men dressed in dark clothing and dark knit caps were seen walking in and out of the building to load objects into a white van with sliding doors.

They then drove off with the van.

Another witness noticed a man walking around the customs office before getting into a car and driving off in the same direction as the van.

Photographs of the man taken by the witness were published by police, who are offering a 100,000-euro ($117,600) reward for information leading to the arrest or conviction of the suspects.

100kg gold coin

Germany has been hit by several high-profile heists, with banks and museums frequent targets.

A Berlin court sentenced three men to multi-year jail sentences in February for the spectacular theft of a 100kg (220 pounds) gold coin from one of the German capital’s museums.

Police have found no trace of the Canadian coin since the late-night heist in March 2017 from the Bode Museum, located close to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Berlin apartment.

The “Big Maple Leaf”, one of five minted in 2007, is considered the world’s second-largest gold coin after the one-tonne Australian Kangaroo issued in 2012.

Two of the men convicted belong to a family of Arab origin notorious for ties to organised crime, while the third was a security guard at the museum.

The Remmo family, whose patriarchs fled war-torn Lebanon in the 1980s, are considered to be one of Berlin’s most notorious organised crime clans.

Priceless diamonds were meanwhile among a huge haul of jewellery stolen from the Green Vault museum in Dresden’s Royal Palace in November 2019.

A reward of half a million euros ($587,750) has been offered for information about the break-in, but no suspects have yet been named.

None of the objects, many encrusted with hundreds of diamonds, has been recovered.

Most recently, in Berlin, at least three bank robbery attempts were reported earlier this year.

A bank in the upmarket central district of Wilmersdorf was hit twice, with thieves reportedly making off with half a million euros in their first bid while holding up a money transporter.

It was unclear if any money was taken in the second attempt.

Another bank in the German capital was also hit in August, but thieves fled empty-handed.

Source: AFP