BERLIN (AP) — Thieves who broke into a museum in southern Germany and stole hundreds of ancient gold coins have been…
BERLIN (AP) — Thieves who broke into a southern German museum and stole hundreds of ancient gold coins were in and out in nine minutes without raising the alarm, officials said Wednesday, another sign that the heist was the work of organized criminals.
Police have launched an international manhunt for the thieves and their loot, which consists of 483 Celtic coins and a piece of unwrought gold, which were found during an archaeological dig near the modern town of Manhing in 1999.
Guido Limmer, deputy head of the Bavarian State Criminal Police Office, described how at 1:17 a.m. (0017 GMT) on Tuesday, cables were cut at a communications hub about one kilometer (less than a mile) from the Celtic and Roman Museum in Munich. , knocking out communication networks in the region.
Security systems at the museum recorded the doors being opened at 1:26 a.m. and then the thieves leaving again at 1:35 a.m., Leamer said. It was during these nine minutes that the culprits probably broke the showcase and looted the treasure.
“Whether there is a connection, we cannot say,” he added. “Just this much: We are in touch with colleagues to explore all possible angles.”
Bavarian Science and Arts Minister Markus Blum said the evidence points to the work of professionals.
“It’s clear that you can’t just walk into a museum and take this treasure with you,” he told public broadcaster BR. “It’s very secure and that’s why there are suspicions that we’re dealing with an organized crime case.”
However, officials admitted that there was no security at the museum at night.
The alarm system is believed to provide sufficient security, said Rupert Gebhardt, who heads the Bavarian State Archaeological Collection in Munich.
Gebhard said the treasure is of great value both to the local community of Manching and to archaeologists across Europe.
The cup-shaped coins, which date to around 100 BC, were made from Czech river gold and show how the Celtic settlement at Manching had connections across Europe, he said.
Gebhard estimated the value of the treasure at around 1.6 million euros ($1.65 million).
“The archaeologists hope that the coins will remain in their original condition and reappear at some point,” he said, adding that they are well documented and will be difficult to sell.
“The worst case scenario, melting, will mean a total loss for us,” he said, noting that the material value of the gold itself would be around 250,000 euros at current market prices.
Gebhard said the size of the treasure chest suggests it could have been a “tribal chieftain’s war chest”. It was found inside a bag buried under the foundation of a building, and was the largest such discovery made during regular archaeological excavations in Germany in the 20th century.
Limmer, the deputy police chief, said Interpol and Europol had already been alerted to the coin theft and a 20-strong special investigations unit codenamed Oppidum, after the Latin term for a Celtic settlement, had been set up to track down the attackers. .
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