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Arrests made in $1 million coin theft
By Richard Giedroyc
August 11, 2017

Members of an organized crime family of Lebanese refugees living in Germany have been arrested, accused of the theft of a Canada $1 million gold coin from the Bode Museum in Berlin.

On the early morning of July 12, about 300 officers searched 14 different properties in the Neukölln district of Berlin in search of the massive 100-kilogram (221-pound) 0.99999 fine gold $1 million Canadian coin. Five vehicles, four guns, clothing, shoes and what has been described as a “six figure-range” amount of cash was seized. The clothing seized is being examined for traces of gold.

The search included an Arabic jewelry shop, according to the newspaper Tagesspiegel. Unfortunately, the coin had not been recovered at the time this article was being written.

Berlin State Criminal Office spokesman Carsten Pfohl said, “We are assuming that the coin was in part or in whole sold off. I unfortunately have relatively little hope that we will find the coin, even in pieces.”

Pfohl said it is likely an Arab jeweler in the Sonnenallee helped destroy the coin, then sell it for its intrinsic value (which is about $4 million US).

The “R” family members arrested are described as “brothers, cousins and sons.” (According to German law, the surnames of suspects are not permitted to be made public.) Three of the men are aged 18, 19 and 20. The fourth was a security guard at the museum.

German media refers to these criminal families as “Arab clans.” A recently released television drama called “Four Blocks” is about the Berlin organized crime scene. Sources suggested there could be as many as 10 of these organized crime families in the Neukölln district of Berlin. This could involve anywhere from a few hundred to perhaps as many as 10,000 individuals living throughout Germany.

These criminals have until recently specialized in drugs, prostitution and high-profile robberies. In 2009 the well-known KaDeWe department store in Berlin was robbed of about 7 million euros’ value in jewelry, none of which has ever been recovered.

A 40-point plan to combat these groups was published by Tom Schreiber, Berlin State Parliament social democrat representative.

“This matter with the gold coin – it firstly showed the excellent investigative work of the police and the state prosecutors, but it also showed how these people can plunder the state,” said Schreiber.

Ralph Ghadban is a Lebanese social worker and author who has researched these organized crime groups. According to Ghadban, “Up until now, they almost never found the loot, and they won’t find the gold this time … And if the people end up in prison for a few years – if they get 3.7 million euros – it’ll have been worth it.”

Ghadban spoke of the young age of the men arrested: “They always seem to find a judge who’ll prosecute them under youth law.”

There are 13 other suspects. Ghadban called them “the masterminds and planners – well, you have to find them first and prove that they’re involved. The ones they have arrested won’t betray them.”

German State Prosecutor Martina Lamb told reporters that the conspiracy was sophisticated and far-reaching, that the 13 other suspects in total were “out of the circle of Arab clans.”

The March 27 robbery may have been the third attempt to steal the massive coin. The thieves entered through an elevated railroad platform behind the museum, using a ladder to get in through a window. The museum has more than 500,000 items, which makes it one of the largest coin collections in the world.

The coin has a diameter of 20.9 inches and was said to be carried out in a wheelbarrow. It was one of five replicas of “The Big Maple Leaf” produced by the Royal Canadian Mint in 2007. The five additional coins were made on demand following the unveiling of what was at the time expected to be a unique coin

The coin depicts a profile image of Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse, with a twig of maple leaves on the reverse.

When asked why the RCM would make such a coin a spokesman for the mint rhetorically replied, “Because we can.”

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