Friday, December 13, 2019

SCMP: "Leads on Dresden jewel heist suggest Arab clan involvement"

First up, the South China Morning Post, December 13:

Investigators seeking links to theft of 100kg (220lb) gold coin – the Big Maple Leaf – from Berlin museum in 2017
The “Big Maple Leaf” gold coin in the Bode Museum in Berlin in December 2010. It was stolen in March 2017. 
Photo: dpa via AP
Investigators probing a sensational heist of antique jewellery from Dresden's Green Vault Museum last month have in their sights Berlin-based criminal clans with an Arab background, a newspaper report said on Thursday.
The burglars had made use of an hydraulic spreading tool of the kind used by emergency services, several of which had gone missing from the Berlin fire services, the Berliner Morgenpost newspaper reported.

In addition, a known clan member was found guilty recently of breaking into the premises of a company in Bavaria that makes the devices, the newspaper said....MORE
And from Der Spiegel, December 2: 

Experts Fear Thieves Will Recut and Sell Diamond Treasures
The recent theft of priceless jewels from an important collection in Dresden has cast light on the problem facing many museums today: security. Did the Grüne Gewölbe make the thieves' job too easy? And what is likely to happen to the looted treasures? By DER SPIEGEL Staff
Photo Gallery: Questions after Dresden Theft
It's almost as if the people in charge saw the calamity coming. In early May of this year, the members of the German Museums Association met, in Dresden of all places, to found a new working group focusing on security. The group's website seemed to hint at the coming disaster, with separate subject headings for "object-security management," "employees (safety)" and "risk analysis and emergency management."

All of these measures might have been helpful early on Monday morning, when unknown perpetrators smashed a display case in an area of the Royal Palace in Dresden known as the Grüne Gewölbe, or Green Vault, and stole works of art as well as jewels of inestimable value.

The working group was, by all appearances, not yet up and running. An "initial founding meeting" had taken place in late October, and a spokesperson had been named: Michael John, the head of the construction, technology and security division of the Dresden State Art Collections -- the man responsible for the security of the Green Vault. At the time of the break-in, he was in London attending a conference about museum security.

Years ago, the then director general of the collections, Martin Roth, said the Green Vault was "as secure as Fort Knox." And even after the incident, Dirk Syndram, the director of the Green Vault and the Dresden Armory, told the S ächsische Zeitung newspaper, "Our security system got reviewed four years ago, and the conclusion was that everything was fine with it." He claimed nothing could stop perpetrators like the ones who broke into the vault. "What they did there was almost like 'Mission Impossible.'"

Whatever movie Syndram saw, it can't have been "Mission Impossible." In that film, Tom Cruise's character, Ethan Hunt, had to overcome a series of high-tech traps. The perpetrators in Dresden, on the other hand, took a simple, old-fashioned approach more reminiscent of Bob the Builder: They cut through the grate in front of a window and broke through the display case with an axe.
In fact, they might have had it too easy. They can't have had problems orienting themselves in the vault: the museum's website offers a virtual tour showing important locations within the institution. And even security-relevant, sensitive details are publicly accessible.

Anyone doing a basic online search can find the manufacturer of the display cases, which advertises its work and gives precise details about the type of glass it used for the cases ("laminated safety glass 5-5-2 extra-white," and, more specifically, "laminated safety glass made of ESG 8-8-4 extra-white.") Anyone reading that will know which axe would be necessary to destroy the cases....