A museum heist in Germany has resulted in nearly one billion dollars' worth of ancient Saxon jewels being stolen, NBC News reports. Unfortunately for the thieves, so well-known are the jewels that they're all but certain to be unable to sell them on the open market.
At about 5:00 a.m. local time on Monday (11:00 p.m. Sunday night Eastern Time), authorities learned that there had been a break-in at the Grünes Gewölbe museum, or Green Vault. Surveillance video revealed the break-in -- the thieves entered the building, cut off the power that would have activated the alarms, pulled back a metal grille, broke the glass, and made off with the jewels. They then fled the museum in a car. They were in and out in less than five minutes, according to ABC News.
In what the museum is calling an "unimaginable" loss, the thieves stole a collection of jewels that had once been housed in a royal palace. The priceless collection of gems was founded in the 18th century by August the Strong, Elector of Saxony and later King of Poland.
"We are shocked by the brutality of the burglary," said Marion Ackermann, the director of the State Art Collections.
Michael Kretschmer, the minister-president of the Saxony region of Germany, said that the heist is a crime against Saxon history.
"Not only the State Art Collections were robbed, but we Saxons. The values found here have been hard-won by the people of our free state for many centuries," he said.Authorities refused to put a monetary value on the stolen goods, saying that their cultural and historical value far exceeds their monetary value.
"There is nowhere in any other collection in Europe jewels or jewels set that have been preserved in this form and quality and quantity as these royal sets," said Dirk Syndram, the director of the Green Vault at the Dresden State Art Collections.
Not all of the collection is lost, however. 17 pieces are currently in a New York museum, on loan from their German home.
Police believe that the getaway car was an Audi 6. A car matching that description was found burning in a garage nearby and officials are currently examining that vehicle to see if there's a connection between it and the robbery.
Other than that, authorities have no suspects and no leads.
A crack forensics investigative team, given the code name "Epaulette," has been dispatched to scour the crime scene for evidence.
This is a developing story. More information about the German museum heist will be published as it becomes available.