The break-in looked like the work of an expert.
It all started shortly after midnight on November 22, 2022, when someone cut a fiber optic cable at a telecommunications center in the small town of Manching, Bavaria, Germany, cutting off internet and phone connections for 13,000 homes.
And just before 1:30 a.m., the Celtic-Roman Museum was broken into. Police said the robbers had broken open two locked doors and a display case within nine minutes.
When museum staff arrived in the morning, they found the building’s most valuable artifacts missing. It was a cache of 483 ancient gold coins believed to date back about 100 years before Jesus’ birth.
An official said the stolen gold nuggets, like the coins, could be worth $1.7 million, but less if melted.
On Thursday, the Bavarian Criminal Police said it had arrested four men suspected of carrying out the theft after a month-long investigation by a 25-member task force revealed DNA traces on unidentified items at the scene.
Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said: “The arrest of this professional band of robbers is due to the very dedicated and meticulous work of the police and the public prosecutor’s office.” statement. “The investigation into the whereabouts of the gold treasure will continue at full force.”
They are believed to have been made from four melted coins.
“We know that about 70 gold coins have been irretrievably lost in their cultural and historical significance,” Bavaria’s Minister of Culture Markus Blume said, according to the Associated Press. “But that of course means there is still a chance that perhaps the remaining gold coins, and therefore most of the gold treasure, can still be found.”
The coin was unearthed in 1999 during excavations at an ancient Celtic settlement known as Oppidum of Munching.
This treasury is believed to be the largest deposit of ancient Celtic gold discovered in the 20th century. Why so much gold was kept in one place and how it got there remains a mystery.
The coin was the pride of the Celtic-Roman Museum, a small archaeological institution that exhibits coins and other artifacts found in the area.
Bavarian state police said investigators, including a police diving team, conducted a large-scale search around the museum after the coins were stolen. statement.
A statement said two blue crowbars, pruning shears and a knife were found in a nearby pond and the Pearl River during the search. Investigators also found a radio antenna next to the museum.
The items were forensically examined and DNA samples were taken, the statement said.
Investigators entered the sample into national DNA databases in Germany and neighboring countries and found matches for similar thefts across Germany and Austria, the statement said.
Cables were also cut in some of these thefts to circumvent the alarm system. The theft had other similarities, the statement said.
The robbers were wearing black overalls with balaclavas and each had identical crowbars, screwdrivers and an angle grinder with several cutting discs, the statement said, though it did not elaborate on how investigators gathered these details. The thieves also jammed the alarm system using radio jammers.
Investigators investigated the case files of each robbery, which led them to a 42-year-old man from Schwerin in northern Germany. Bavarian police say he is believed to have been involved in a robbery in Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia state in 2018.
After further investigation, police tracked down a 46-year-old German man and a 50-year-old man who also live in Schwerin.
Police said Tuesday that three men had been arrested. One of them had just met a 43-year-old man from Berlin who was carrying 18 gold bars in a plastic bag. he was also arrested.
An analysis of the nugget found it to contain a mixture of gold, silver and copper, consistent with the composition of the stolen coins, officials said.
The four were charged with aggravated gang theft, including damage to property and interference with telecommunications systems, the statement said.
Their names have not been released, and it was not immediately clear whether they had lawyers.
Police searched more than 20 apartments, businesses, garden plots, a boathouse and a vehicle as part of the investigation, the statement said.
They seized masks, “robbery tools,” backpacks, mobile phones, jammers and cash, the statement continued.
Officials haven’t released details about the jammers, but the report said such devices could be used to block 911 calls, cell phone services, police radar and global positioning systems. Federal Communications Commission.