Members of notorious Berlin crime family arrested over Green Vault jewel heist

Justin Huggler
Mandatory Credit: Photo by FILIP SINGER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (11019289ai) Police officer with machine gun during a raid linked to the Green Vault (Gruenes Gewoelbe) burglary in the Dresden castle, Berlin, Germany, 17 November 2020. According to media reports, police have arrested three people in relation to the November 2019 robbery of the Dresden's Treasury Green Vault. Police raid linked to burglary at Green Vault in Dresden, Berlin, Germany - 17 Nov 2020 - FILIP SINGER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Mandatory Credit: Photo by FILIP SINGER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (11019289ai) Police officer with machine gun during a raid linked to the Green Vault (Gruenes Gewoelbe) burglary in the Dresden castle, Berlin, Germany, 17 November 2020. According to media reports, police have arrested three people in relation to the November 2019 robbery of the Dresden's Treasury Green Vault. Police raid linked to burglary at Green Vault in Dresden, Berlin, Germany - 17 Nov 2020 - FILIP SINGER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Three men were arrested in Germany on Tuesday in connection with last year’s €1bn (£896m) jewel robbery from Dresden’s famous Green Vault.

The arrests come almost a year after the spectacular theft and are the first major breakthrough in the investigation.

The three arrested men have not been named, but they are understood to be members of the Remmo Clan, one of Berlin’s most powerful organised crime groups.

Police named two further members of the extended family as wanted in connection with the robbery.

More than 1,600 police officers took part in early morning raids in Berlin’s Neukölln  neighbourhood, an area widely regarded as Remmo Clan territory.

“A total of 18 properties are currently being searched in Berlin, including ten apartments, garages and vehicles,” Dresden prosecutors said in a statement. 

“The focus of today's measures is the search for the stolen art treasures and possible evidence, such as storage media, items of clothing and tools.”

BERLIN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 17: Heavily-armed police walk outside an apartment building in Kreuzberg district during raids in which police arrested three suspects in connection with last year's spectacular robbery in the Gruenes Gewoelbe museum in Dresden on November 17, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. On November 25, 2019, thieves entered the museum and stole a wide variety of priceless jewels. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images) - Sean Gallup/Getty Images Europe
BERLIN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 17: Heavily-armed police walk outside an apartment building in Kreuzberg district during raids in which police arrested three suspects in connection with last year's spectacular robbery in the Gruenes Gewoelbe museum in Dresden on November 17, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. On November 25, 2019, thieves entered the museum and stole a wide variety of priceless jewels. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images) - Sean Gallup/Getty Images Europe

The theft at the Green Vault has been described as the “biggest art heist in modern history”.

Irreplaceable historic jewellery stolen from the vault remains missing, including the world famous Dresden White diamond.

There are fears baroque treasures including a sword with a diamond-studded hilt and a diamond breast star of the Polish Order of the White Eagles may have been broken up to be sold on the black market.

One of the arrested men was identified by the German press as a prominent member of the Remmo Clan convicted earlier this year over the 2017 theft of a giant gold Canadian commemorative coin from a Berlin museum.

The crime family is regarded as so dangerous that some of the arrests were carried out by police special forces.

Police named Abdul Majed Remmo and Mohamed Remmo, two junior members of the extended family, as wanted in connection with the Green Vault robbery.

(FILES) This file photo taken on April 9, 2019 shows one of the rooms in the Green Vault (Gruenes Gewoelbe) at the Royal Palace in Dresden, eastern Germany. - German police on Tuesday, November 17, 2020 arrested three suspects over a spectacular heist a year ago in which more than a dozen diamond-encrusted items were snatched from the state museum in Dresden. (Photo by Sebastian Kahnert / dpa / AFP) / Germany OUT (Photo by SEBASTIAN KAHNERT/dpa/AFP via Getty Images) - SEBASTIAN KAHNERT/DPA
(FILES) This file photo taken on April 9, 2019 shows one of the rooms in the Green Vault (Gruenes Gewoelbe) at the Royal Palace in Dresden, eastern Germany. - German police on Tuesday, November 17, 2020 arrested three suspects over a spectacular heist a year ago in which more than a dozen diamond-encrusted items were snatched from the state museum in Dresden. (Photo by Sebastian Kahnert / dpa / AFP) / Germany OUT (Photo by SEBASTIAN KAHNERT/dpa/AFP via Getty Images) - SEBASTIAN KAHNERT/DPA

The Remmo Clan is one of a number of “Arab gangs” that have come to dominate organised crime in Berlin in recent years.

Although they are routinely described as Arab, the Remmos actually trace their roots to an Arabic-speaking Kurdish minority.

They have been in Germany since the Seventies and have nothing to do with the influx of mostly Syrian asylum-seekers during the 2015 migrant crisis.

The “Arab gangs” flaunt the wealth and luxury in which they live and lurid stories about their activities have become a staple of the German popular press.

Tourist shops sell maps of the German capital showing the rival groups’ territories, and there are urban legends about the supposed impunity with which they operate.

(FILES) This undated handout photo made available on November 25, 2019 by the Dresden Police shows one of the pieces stolen from the Royal Palace that houses the historic Green Vault (Gruenes Gewoelbe) in Dresden, eastern Germany in the ealry hours of the morning on November 25, 2019. - German police on Tuesday, November 17, 2020 arrested three suspects over a spectacular heist a year ago in which more than a dozen diamond-encrusted items were snatched from the state museum in Dresden. (Photo by Juergen Karpinski / Green Vault (Gruenes Gewoelbe) / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / Dresden Police / Green Vault (Gruenes Gewoelbe) / Juergen Karpinski " - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS (Photo by JUERGEN KARPINSKI/Green Vault (Gruenes Gewoelbe)/AFP via Getty Images) - JUERGEN KARPINSKI/AFP
(FILES) This undated handout photo made available on November 25, 2019 by the Dresden Police shows one of the pieces stolen from the Royal Palace that houses the historic Green Vault (Gruenes Gewoelbe) in Dresden, eastern Germany in the ealry hours of the morning on November 25, 2019. - German police on Tuesday, November 17, 2020 arrested three suspects over a spectacular heist a year ago in which more than a dozen diamond-encrusted items were snatched from the state museum in Dresden. (Photo by Juergen Karpinski / Green Vault (Gruenes Gewoelbe) / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / Dresden Police / Green Vault (Gruenes Gewoelbe) / Juergen Karpinski " - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS (Photo by JUERGEN KARPINSKI/Green Vault (Gruenes Gewoelbe)/AFP via Getty Images) - JUERGEN KARPINSKI/AFP

One such story alleges that when police stopped the godfather of the Remmo Clan for a broken tail light in 2001, the officers quickly found themselves surrounded by gang members.

There have also been more visible displays of power, such as when more than 100 clan members ignored coronavirus rules to take part in the mafia-style funeral of a family matriarch earlier this year.

In Febraury, in one of the biggest legal cases yet brought against members of the clan, two prominent members were sentenced to four and half years in prison each over the 2017 theft of 100kg commemorative gold Canadian coin worth €3.75m (£3.4m) from Berlin’s Bode Museum.

The case was the most dramatic theft from a German museum until it was eclipsed by last year’s Green Vault robbery.

The fact the same criminal family is now believed to be behind both crimes will come as little comfort to those hoping for the safe recovery of the Dresden treasures.

No trace of the stolen commemorative coin has even been found, and it is believed to have been melted down.