Art theft

Green Vault guards under investigation in Dresden jewel heist inquiry

Two are suspected of tampering with the alarm system; two more, on duty during the theft, are accused of an inadequate response

Police have released this portrait of a young man who purchased the getaway car, an Audi A6, from a private seller in Magdeburg. © Polizei Sachsen

Four guards at Dresden’s Green Vault are under investigation in the police inquiry into the spectacular theft last year of priceless jewels crafted for the Saxon elector August the Strong.

Two of the guards at the museum are under investigation because of “an action concerning the alarm system that may have benefited the thieves,” according to Jürgen Schmidt, a spokesman for the Dresden prosecutor quoted by the German press agency DPA and other media. One of them was arrested in November on suspicion he or she had passed documents about the Green Vault’s layout and security system to the thieves, but released after a house search revealed no relevant evidence, DPA said.

The other two guards under investigation were on duty when the thieves broke into the Green Vault in the early hours of the morning on 25 November, DPA said. A private individual lodged a complaint that they did not respond adequately to prevent the theft, Schmidt told DPA.

The theft included an arson attack on an electricity distribution point that eliminated street lighting and allowed the thieves to work under cover of complete darkness. After smashing a vitrine with an axe, they got away with 11 diamond objects plus a handful of skirt buttons from three royal parures.

Dresden police are offering a reward of up to €500,000 for tips that lead to the recovery of the jewels or the arrest of the suspects. Forty officers have been assigned to a special task force named “Epaulette.”

Police have issued a drawn portrait of a young man who purchased the getaway car, an Audi A6, from a private seller in Magdeburg. The car was found burning in an underground garage, where it is assumed the thieves had parked a second vehicle to escape in anonymity.

Officers say they believe at least seven people were involved in the theft.