Arab mafia steals 100-kilogram coin from Ukrainian oligarch 

Arab mafia steals 100-kilogram coin from Ukrainian oligarch
Photo: Heinz-Peter Bader / Reuters

In Berlin, the participants of the most unusual robbery of recent years went on trial. Three young Arab migrants stole a considerable gold coin from the museum using only an ax handle, ropes, stairs, and carts.

Coin worth a million

The Bode Museum in Berlin has the Coin Cabinet that is a paradise for a coin collector. The museum holds more than half a million original coins and banknotes, as well as about 300 thousand plaster casts and other doublets of notes most of which are in excellent condition. Coins from the times of ancient Greece and Rome, Byzantium, medieval Europe, and Asia, copper, silver, gold.

One of the most notable exhibits of the exhibition is the huge Big Maple Leaf coin, cast in 2007 from pure gold by the Royal Canadian Mint. Its value is a million dollars, but collectors valued it at 4.3 million dollars. The face of the coin shows the profile of the Queen of Great Britain Elizabeth II, the denomination and the year of issue of the coin, and the back covers the symbol of Canada - the maple leaf, the name of the country, the weight of the coin and the inscription “pure gold.” At the time of issue, the coin, three centimeters thick and 53 centimeters in diameter, was considered the largest in the world and was listed in the Guinness Book of Records. According to the manufacturer, the coin contains 99.999 percent gold.

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Stolen coin

In total, five Large Maple Leaves were sold, the original remained in the mint. One of the coins is in the personal collection of the Queen of England, two went to the United Arab Emirates, and another buyer was Ukrainian oligarch Boris Fuksman, the cousin of film producer Alexander Rodnyansky. The businessman did not keep the relic at home: in 2010, he handed it over to the Bode museum for rent, so that coin collectors from all over the world could watch at the wonder.

Economy Robbery

However, the huge gold coin attracted not only collectors. On the night of March 27, 2017, the exhibit disappeared without a trace. Thieves acted boldly and old-fashioned: they climbed to the third floor of the museum through a window along the stairs from the railway bridge located near the walls of the museum. The alarm did not work. The criminals smashed a box of bullet-proof glass with an ax handle, rolled out a coin to the window, threw it down and took the car across a bridge over the Spree river to a nearby park. There they lowered the coin, once again dropping it, climbed down from the bridge along the ropes and drove away in the car that was waiting for them. Interestingly, the thieves did not touch any other exhibit, although their cost is comparable, or even higher than the cost of the Big Maple Leaf.

The next morning, the museum staff found that, since the doors and windows are not open, the kidnappers are still in the museum. A detachment of hundreds of policemen arrived at the scene, but no one was found in the building. But on the nearby paths, criminologists found an iron sliding ladder and an impressive dent. A little distance away, near the park, there was an abandoned garden wheelbarrow and ropes. The same morning, in one of Berlin’s underground parking lots, police discovered a burnt car, allegedly belonging to robbers. Also, criminals in masks hit the cameras of the external surveillance of a store located near the museum.

Museum director Bernhard Weisser could not believe what happened. At first, he decided that someone organized an April Fool prank. Then he thought it was just an unscheduled safety training. When he realized that the crime happened, his knees began to tremble. “I immediately asked myself a question: how could this ever happen? How did they manage to bypass our security systems that have not failed for decades? And I immediately thought about the employees, but, fortunately, no one was suspected,” he admitted. Weisser noted that if he succeeds in returning the coin, he plans to put it on display, in whatever condition it may be.

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Detention of one of the suspects. Berlin, July 12, 2017

During the investigation, the police concluded that the Lebanese mafia was involved in the incident. In the street races conducted by one of the Arab clans, they managed to find another suspicious car. On July 5, 2017, it was seized after an illegal street race. However, in November of the same year, the attackers attempted to destroy the evidence: they sneaked onto the police parking lot, where the cars were confiscated, and filled the cabin with foam from a fire extinguisher. But the police could still find evidence before that - traces of gold were left on the upholstery of the seats.

Arabian mafia

In the summer of 2017, about 300 police officers took part in a large-scale raid against the Lebanese mafia. In the course of it, three suspects were arrested. They gave out their accomplice-watchman, and soon he was also detained. In their house, the police found a weapon, a “small sum” in cash, clothes, shoes and five cars. All this is confiscated: experts are looking for traces of gold on these things. A year later, the police confiscated the property of the Remmo clan worth 9.3 million euros. Searches were carried out in 77 apartments throughout Berlin.

According to prosecutor Martina Lamb, the criminals tried their best with conspiracy. In total, the police had 13 suspects, all of which were related to the Lebanese clan Remmo. “All of them were brothers, cousins, and sons of known criminals,” she noted.

The German press often posts information about the Arab clans operating in the territory of the Berlin district of Neukölln. Due to the popularity of the topic on television, a series about Arab criminals called Four Blocks even appeared. It is known about ten criminal clans, however, there is no information about the quantity of the members. Some sources say that several hundred people, others believe that there are eight or even ten thousand, and they live throughout Germany.

Nevertheless, Tom Schreiber, the politician from the Social Democrats party, who developed a 40-point plan to combat organized crime, emphasizes that not all members of criminal families are in fact connected with the crime. “Only two or three percent of these people are connected with the criminal world,” he noted. At the same time, police sources believe that between ten and fifty percent of clan members are involved in crime.

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Shot from the 4 blocks series about the Arab mafia clans in Berlin

And the clans are mainly engaged in drug trafficking and prostitution. In 2009, criminals broke into the country's most famous store, KaDeWe, and carried jewelry worth seven million euros. The stolen was never found. From time to time, clan members are caught in atrocious murders - for example, in 2017, a 20-year-old Lebanese man killed a person with a baseball bat in broad daylight in the city center.

“Then the police did not find the stolen goods and now they will not find gold. Even if a person is in prison for several years, but receives several million euros, he will tolerate,” said Lebanese Ralph Gadban, who works in the social sphere and studies organized crime in Berlin. The man is not surprised that such young people were arrested - the judges are, as a rule, more lenient towards them. “The rest of the suspects — those who invented and planned the crime — must first be found, and then their involvement must be proved. Those arrestees would never betray them,” he added.

Most of the Lebanese immigrants arrived in Berlin in the late 1970s and early 1980s, fleeing civil war. However, according to Gadban, several clans at the same time came from the south-east of Turkey and have a mixed national origin. “They are all different and even pronounce their names in different ways, so it’s very difficult to count them. Sometimes they do not have citizenship, sometimes they have Turkish passports. Many have Lebanese citizenship, but they do not get a passport,” says the man.

Gabdan claims that he tried to convey information about the organized crime to the government of the country for 30 years, but the police began to listen to him and do something only recently. Schreiber called these words stupid and added that the police department for combating Arab organized crime appeared ten years ago, and this is also supervised by the prosecutor. “The only problem is that we cannot yet stop the growth of crime. They continue to disguise illegal organizations as legal ones and they do it perfectly well,” the politician complained.

Time of justice

The names of the accused, according to German law, are not fully revealed. However, the journalists managed to find out these names: brothers Ahmed R. and Vaisi R., 20 and 24 years old, and their 22-year-old cousin Viisam R. They appeared in court, the police suggest that they belong to the Lebanese criminal clan Remmo. They were assisted by a 20-year-old guard, Denis V., who provided the kidnappers with information about the museum’s security systems. He was a school friend of Ahmed and is now studying to be a paramedic. All the accused are at large under a written undertaking not to leave the city, but their property has been seized.

On Thursday, January 10, the trial began. All four defendants deny their guilt. The lawyer of one of the men, Toralf Neding, noted that the investigation had not provided any substantial evidence of his client’s guilt. He also condemned the journalists for having linked the defendants to the Remmo clan but did not deny it. Chief Prosecutor Martin Lamb demands that criminals pay damages and pay back 4.3 million dollars. If they are found guilty, they face up to ten years in prison.

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Boris Fuksman

At the end of last year, Boris Fuksman admitted that he was very worried after the crime. “I was in pain. The problem is not the loss of four million. The coin was insured, but the fact that they stole something from me, I loved it, I was proud of this coin,” he said.

The police could not find the coin. They suggest that it was either taken abroad or “melted down and cut into small pieces.”

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