German cops eye related crimes as Celtic museum heist details emerge

2 mins read
Policemen fix a barrier tape on November 23, 2022 in the exhibition room of the Celtic and Roman museum in Manching, southern Germany, where a hoard of Celtic coins was on display before the treasure was stolen. The coins were stolen from the museum in a seemingly daring raid in the early hours of November 22, 2022. Credit line: CHRISTOF STACHE / AFP / Profimedia

German police spent Wednesday trying to wrap their minds around the theft of millions in gold from a museum about Celtic culture, a crime that has parallels to other recent high-profile thefts in Germany, many of which have involved sabotage of the regional phone network.

Wednesday started with the revelation that the burglars who broke into the museum in the town of Manching, Bavaria, made off with more loot than initially assumed, as it became clear a second display case had been looted during the early Tuesday burglary.

Along with a cache of gold coins, three more, considerably larger coins were stolen. It was initially unclear whether they are also made of gold, how heavy they are and what their value is.

Not only that, but police reported on Wednesday that the thieves acted efficiently, needing all of nine minutes for the robbery. Guido Limmer, a deputy at the state police, said a door was pried open at 1:26 am (0026 GMT) on Tuesday. The burglars were gone by 1:35 am.

Rupert Gebhard of the Archaeological Collection of the Bavarian State said the estimated value of the gold coins stolen was about €1.6 million ($1.64 million), with the value of each coin at between €3,000 and €4,000.

But that’s if the coins are kept as is. Melted down, the gold would only be worth about €250,000, which would be a “total loss,” he said. For Europe’s archaeologists, the 483 coins in question are a “real gem,” he added.

Markus Blume, Bavaria’s minister for science and art, assumes authorities are dealing with organized crime, seeing as the museum is “highly secured.”

“It’s clear that you don’t just march into a museum like this and then take this treasure with you,” he said in an interview with public broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk. 

The thieves will probably find it difficult to sell the Celtic coins, police said. But that is only creating more fears that they will melt them down and sell them for the value of the gold, a spokesperson for the State Office of Criminal Investigation said on Wednesday morning. 

The cache of gold coins was discovered in Manching in 1999, in what was the largest Celtic gold find of the last century. It has been on public display since 2006.

According to dpa information, the perpetrators are being searched for in the entire Schengen area. 

Nor are they only being sought for theft. The same night as the coins were stolen, there was a break-in at an office of Deutsche Telekom, one of Germany’s main telecommunications companies, resulting in significant damage and disruption of internet, telephone and television services to 13,000 homes and businesses.

Due to that break-in, no alarm was transmitted to the police during the museum robbery, which has prompted speculation the two are linked.

A Telekom spokesperson said late on Wednesday that service had been restored.

The nature of the Manching case has also prompted the creation of a special police task force because of the parallels authorities are seeing with other thefts of artefacts, such as the 2019 break-in at Dresden’s Green Vault or the theft of a giant coin from Berlin’s Bode Museum in 2017.

Limmer said there were “parallels,” but no way to tell if they were linked.

The 20-person team that will look into the possibility the crimes are linked will be called Oppidum, the name of a Celtic settlement. ©dpa

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