Gone in 9 Minutes: How the Celtic Gold Heist Happened in Germany

Celtic treasure coins are displayed at the local Celtic and Roman museum in Manching, Germany, May 31, 2006. A senior official said on Wednesday that a huge horde of ancient gold coins were stolen from a museum in southern Germany this week. (Frank Maechler, dpa via AP)

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BERLIN – Thieves who broke into a southern German museum and stole hundreds of ancient gold coins got in and out in nine minutes without raising the alarm, officials said Wednesday, in another sign that the heist was the work of organized criminals.

Police launched an international manhunt for the thieves and their loot, consisting of 483 Celtic coins and a lump of unwrought gold, which were discovered during an archaeological dig near the present-day city of Manching in 1999.

Guido Limmer, deputy head of the Bavarian State Criminal Police Office, described how cables were cut at a telecommunications hub about one kilometer (less than a mile) from the Celtic and Roman Museum in Manchning at 1:17 a.m. (0017 GMT) on Tuesday. , decommissioning of communication networks in the region.

Security systems at the museum recorded the doors being pried open at 1:26 a.m. and then the thieves leaving again at 1:35 a.m., Limmer said. It was in those nine minutes that the culprits had to break the display case and dig up the treasure.

Limmer said there were “parallels” between the robbery in Manching and the theft of precious jewels in Dresden and a large gold coin in Berlin in recent years. Both were accused of being part of a Berlin crime family.

“Whether there is a link, we cannot say,” he added. “Just this much: We are in contact with colleagues to explore all possible angles.

Bavarian Science and Art Minister Markus Blume said the evidence points to the work of professionals.

“Clearly you don’t just march into a museum and take this treasure with you,” he told public broadcaster BR. “It is highly secure and as such there is a suspicion that we are more likely dealing with an organized crime case.”


It’s clear that you can’t just march into a museum and take this treasure with you. … It is highly secured and as such there is a suspicion that we are more likely dealing with an organized crime case.

– Bavarian Minister of Science and Art Markus Blume


However, officials acknowledged that there was no guard at the museum overnight.

The alarm system was considered sufficient security, said Rupert Gebhard, who heads the Bavarian State Archaeological Collection in Munich.

Gebhard said the treasure is of great value both to the local community in Manching and to archaeologists across Europe.

The bowl-shaped coins, dating from about 100 BC, were made from Bohemian river gold and show how the Celtic settlement in Manching had connections across Europe, he said.

Gebhard estimated the value of the treasure at around 1.6 million euros ($1.65 million).

The Celtic-Roman Museum is shown in the evening light on Tuesday in Manching, Germany.  A huge hoard of ancient gold coins dating back to around 100 BC has been stolen from the Manching Museum in southern Germany, police said on Tuesday.
The Celtic-Roman Museum is shown in the evening light on Tuesday in Manching, Germany. A huge hoard of ancient gold coins dating back to around 100 BC has been stolen from the Manching Museum in southern Germany, police said on Tuesday. (Photo: Armin Weigel, dpa via AP)

“Archaeologists hope that the coins will remain in their original state and will reappear at some point,” he said, adding that they are well-documented and difficult to sell.

“The worst option, melting, would mean a total loss for us,” he said, adding that the material value of the gold itself would only reach about 250,000 euros at current market prices.

Gebhard said the size of the treasure suggested it could be a “tribal chieftain’s war chest”. It was found inside a sack buried under the foundations 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-man special investigation unit, codenamed “Oppidum” after the Latin term for a Celtic settlement, had been set up to track down the culprits. .

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