Nine minutes was all it took for thieves to break into a Celtic-Roman museum in southern Germany, steal historic gold coins worth €1.6 million, and leave. It is believed to be the work of organised crime and an international investigation is ongoing.
Employees discovered the broken glass that was meant to protect the valuable exhibit on the floor on Wednesday morning, leading to the discovery of the theft.
The estimated worth of the gold coins is €1.6 million, according to Rupert Gebhard, head of the Bavarian State Archaeological Collection in Munich. The coins date back to around 100 BC and were made of Bohemian river gold. They were discovered under the building's foundations in a bag.
According to Gebhard, they were possibly a Celtic chieftain's war chest and link the Celtic settlement at Manching to other settlements in Europe. The archaeologist described his sadness as "like losing an old friend."
Meticulous preparation and execution
The robbery was meticulously prepared, Bavarian judicial police say. On Tuesday night at 01:17, cables in a telecom operator's cabin near the museum were disabled. Security systems at the museum registered that a door was pried open at 01:26. The alarm system did not activate as the communication network was down. At 01:35, the thieves left the building, considerably richer than they had been nine minutes earlier.
Three additional large gold coins were also taken from another display. A total of 483 Celtic coins were stolen, along with a lump of raw gold, all of which were found during excavations near Manching in 1999.
"You don't just walk into a museum and take treasure," said Markus Blume, minister for science and art in Bavaria. "This museum is highly secured. We suspect that this is an act of organised crime."
"The investigation is ongoing in several countries," continued Blume. "The international police service Interpol and the European police service Europol are also involved."
Gebhard hopes that the coins will not be melted down, as this "would be a big loss". He explained that selling the coins may prove difficult as the items are all well documented.