Security & Fraud

Cybercrooks Go Old School With German Jewelry Heist

German Jewelry Heist Is Latest Luxury Theft

Ours is the age of the cyberheist.

Business email compromises. Spoofed phone numbers. Billions of passwords floating around. Malware and synthetic identities and the Dark Web, where the bad guys congregate to get away with dirty financial deeds and drain bank accounts.

Turns out there is always room for a bit of brute force – the physical kind, with an ax in tow.

And who needs bank account information, when gleaming jewels beckon?

The Wall Street Journal, among other sites, reported this week that roughly 100 pieces of 18th-century jewelry were taken from the Royal Castle of Dresden in Germany. The theft has been termed “one of the most devastating jewelry heists in history,” and it’s impossible to put a value on what’s been nabbed.

To drill down a bit into the particulars of the case, the thieves gained access after they broke a window, ventured down into the gallery (the Grünes Gewölbe) and then grabbed three sets of Baroque jewels.

By smashing the jewelry case with an ax.

Among the items stolen were diamond brooches, pearls and a diamond-encrusted dueling sword.

Vivienne Becker, a jewelry historian based in London, told the Journal that “it’s as if someone had broken in the Louvre and had taken the Mona Lisa.” Authorities have said the thieves likely fled in an Audi A6, which is similar to a vehicle that was set on fire at a nearby parking garage.

“Following widely practiced protocol, the castle’s unarmed security staff alerted local police upon spotting the burglary in progress on surveillance cameras, which showed at least two suspects wearing dark, hooded clothing, carrying flashlights and repeatedly swinging an ax into a glass showcase until it split open,” reported the Journal.

The news follows other attempted thefts of valuable artworks and manmade items. Earlier in the month, there was an attempted theft of Rembrandt paintings from a London gallery. (The would-be thief made off emptyhanded and so far has evaded arrest).

Stolen art may be business, as Interpol, the international police operation, has a database in place (launched in August) showing that roughly 34,000 items have been reported stolen. As the report noted, the U.S. is home to the biggest buyers of black market artworks, valued at around $6 billion, per data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Theft in any form, of course, has its victims, and we don’t mean to make light of crime. But the methods employed to get what was gotten seem almost ancient. Even in movies, jewel thieves are a cunning lot, often outfitted with gadgets – and, in the case of George Clooney, some amount of charm.

The latest smash and grab? It speaks volumes to the fact that when it comes to theft – whether it’s data or diamonds that beckon –where there’s a will, there’s a way.

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