The enormous gold coin stolen in an audacious break-in at Berlin’s Bode Museum in 2017 is still missing as suspects accused of carrying out the heist go on trial. Weighing a staggering 100 kilograms (220 pounds) and made of gold valued at €3.6 million ($4.3 million), the alleged thieves escaped with the giant piece of currency using a ladder, skateboard, and wheelbarrow.
The four suspects in the heist that grabbed the headlines went on trial today, January 10, in Berlin. The Canadian commemorative gold coin, which is called Big Maple Leaf and has a face value of $1 million Canadian dollars, was on loan from a private collector. It is presumed by officials to have been broken up or melted down. The defendants hid their faces as they arrived at the courtroom in Berlin this morning.
One of the men’s lawyers, Toralf Nöding, said that the police had “not produced a single piece of substantial evidence,” according to Deutsche Welle.
The late-night robbery took place on March 27, 2017, when three people allegedly broke in through a third-floor window. It is said that they smashed a bulletproof cabinet to remove the coin, hauled it through the museum and then made their escape. Reportedly using a skateboard and a wheel barrow, the thieves carried it to a nearby park and transferred the coin to a getaway car.
After the heist, prosecutors say that unknown criminals broke into the police compound where the getaway car was being held and tried to destroy the evidence by spraying the vehicle with fire extinguishers. Nevertheless, police were able to find gold leaf from the vehicle’s upholstery, according to the Guardian.
The main suspects due to go on trial today are said to be members of a German-Lebanese family known to have been the subject of police investigations in the past. They are said to be two brothers and a cousin. A fourth suspect, Denis W, was a security guard at the museum. He is accused of assisting the three other suspects by providing them with key information about the institution’s security. Days after the break-in, Denis W. is said to have been observed purchasing a gold chain valued at €10,000 ($11,525) and was spotted shopping for luxury cars, according to a report in the Irish Times.
The defendants’ lawyer, Nöding, declared the media reports relating the men to the criminal family were false, according to Deutsche Welle.
The four defendants were arrested in July 2017 in Berlin but were not detained. Because of their age—they would have been between 18 and 20 at the time of the heist—the 12-day trial is being held in a juvenile court for defendants under 21.
Canada minted five of the world’s largest gold coins. One is in Canada, another is owned by the British Queen (whose head appears on the coin), and two are reported to be in Saudi Arabia. The stolen coin is reported to be owned by a German collector.
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