Germany's $1 Billion Jewelry Heist Might Have Been An Inside Job

Art Recovery International founder Christopher Marinello called it "a theft of epic proportions," according to the BBC. In 2019, a pair of men dressed in black ransacked the lavish Green Vault (Grünes Gewölbe) at the Dresden Royal Palace. The heist didn't just run like clockwork; it sprinted like a stopwatch. As the Guardian details, after a conveniently timed fire put out the power to the palace's museum's alarm and multiple street lights, the two burglars shattered a window, cut through a fence, raided the Jewel Room of the Green Vault, and vanished within minutes. A flaming car found later that morning may have served as the getaway vehicle.

The thieves swiped a sword whose hilt was decorated with 779 diamonds, per NPR, along with an epaulet containing 236 diamonds and other extravagant jewelry. The stolen items belonged to a collection amassed by Saxon Ruler Augustus the Strong in 1723. Initial valuations of the loss topped $1 billion. However, NPR says the actual amount was likely lower. Then again, the head of Dresden state museums said it was impossible to assign an "exact value" to artifacts "because they are priceless." So the price is right no matter what. Besides, the more important number to resolve is how many people were involved. And the mystery to solve is how they pulled off such a crazy crime.

This looks like a job for an insider

According to Artnet News, two security guards were on duty during the heist and failed to "react adequately." This obviously raises a lot of questions, like, "Did the thieves also steal the guards' eyes so they couldn't be on the lookout?" And speaking of blindness, how did the thieves find what they were looking for so easily in the dark? After all, as the Guardian observes, the Green Vault contains 10 separate rooms and about 3,000 pieces of jewelry and other valuables, making up roughly "three-quarters of the museum's treasures."

Authorities came to suspect that the on-duty guards didn't suck at their jobs but instead did an excellent inside job. Two off-duty guards may have been in on it as well. One of them was arrested in November 2019 for allegedly relaying information about the layout and alarm system of the Dresden Royal Palace to the burglars. Police believe at least seven suspects, including four security guards, the two burglars, and an unidentified person who purchased the getaway car, for what sounds like a scene from The Italian Job dubbed in German.