Thieves Stole $1 Billion Worth Of Jewelry From A German Museum That Turned Out To Be Uninsured

By on December 6, 2019 in ArticlesHow Much Does

If you're a professional thief with a conscience, museums make great places to plunder from because you might assume that whatever you take is almost guaranteed to be heavily insured. But if the thief or thieves who hit the Green Vault museum in Dresden, Germany had any such ideas, they may want to think about giving their plunder back. That's because after a jewel heist reportedly valued at some $1 billion and including among dozens of pieces a diamond-encrusted dagger and pearl necklace, the museum revealed that the jewels were uninsured.

Despite the value of the gems exceeding $1 billion according to the local press (the museum itself declined to name a figure), Saxony's state Finance Ministry told the press that they weren't insured due to the potential damages being less than the premiums on such an insurance policy, Bloomberg reports. The result is that local authorities are under that much more pressure to find the culprits and return the stolen gems to the museum.

Jens Schlueter/Getty Images

Of course, museum pieces without insurance aren't as unusual as you might think. Julia Ries is the head of fine art and jewelry at Ergo Group AG, an insurance firm, and she tells Bloomberg that while public museums usually pay for insurance when loaning their pieces elsewhere, the very fact that the pieces of a museum's permanent collection may be irreplaceable makes them questionable where insurance is concerned:

"The budgets of public museums are limited…You can't replace such a collection from a monetary or art-historic value. If the jewels aren't recovered, this part of the collection will be lost forever."

Hopefully the jewels will be recovered, but if the efficiency with which the robbery was carried out is any indication the thieves are no slouches, having made their more than $1 billion haul in just about 15 minutes. Here's the official timeline of the robbery from Bloomberg:

  • Shortly before 5 am: Streetlights in the area go dark after someone sets fire to an electrical junction box.
  • About the same time: Thieves cut through a metal grate covering a window and break the glass to enter the museum.
  • 4:57-4:58 am: Two people enter the Green Vault's jewelry room. One, wearing a headlamp, shatters the display case with an ax to remove the gems.
  • 4:59 am: The two security officers on duty spot the burglars on camera and call the cops.
  • 5:04 am: Police arrive at the scene, but there's no trace of the thieves.
  • 5:09 am: Sixteen police cars are dispatched throughout Dresden to look for the getaway car — believed to be an Audi A6 sedan.
  • Around 5:15 am: Police are notified that an Audi A6 is burning in a nearby underground garage.
  • Monday morning: After the fire is extinguished, Dresden police search the museum and garage for further clues, but haven't apprehended the criminals.

As of this writing, the thieves have not been identified or apprehended.

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