Four men on trial for 100-kilogram gold ‘Big Maple Leaf’ theft

Four men are currently on trial in Germany after a 100-kilogram gold coin struck in 2007 by the Royal Canadian Mint was stolen from Berlin’s Bode Museum in 2017.

The men are accused of stealing the coin – dubbed the “Big Maple Leaf” – by entering the museum through a second-storey window, breaking a bulletproof cabinet, carrying the coin on a roller board and using a rope and wheelbarrow to transport it across railroad tracks and through a park to a getaway car. No alarms were triggered in the theft of the coin, which has a market value of £3.3 million (more than $5.6 million Cdn.) and was on loan at the museum since 2010 but did not belong to the Mint.

In court, prosecutors alleged brothers Wayci Remmo and Ahmed Remmo as well as their cousin Wissam Remmo – all under the age of 25 – executed the night-time theft with the help of a friend who was contracted as a security guard at the museum weeks before the incident.

A fourth suspect was identified as “Dennis W.”

If found guilty, the suspects would face up to 10 years in prison and will have to pay back the value of the coin, which hasn’t been recovered.

According to German media, there are concerns the gold was melted down and sold.

SILENT SUSPECTS

Dressed in dark clothing, the four accused arrived in court covering their faces from media by using magazines with eyeholes cut into them. The accused spoke only to confirm their names and addresses and describe their employment status.

Two members of the nine-person legal team representing the accused told the court they expected an unfair trial owing to what they described as circumstantial evidence.

“Despite the huge effort in their investigations, including a special commission, 50 telephone surveillance operations and mobile phone site analysis, 30 house searches and the deployment of sniffer dogs, the evidence collected is scant,” said Toralf Nöding, who’s representing Wayci Remmo.

Stefan Conen, who’s representing Wissam Remmo, cited media reports on the family’s link to organized crime as a reason the trial is unfair.

Last summer, German police seized 77 houses, apartment blocks and garden allotments in Berlin with a total value of about 10 million euros ($15.1 million Cdn.). They are owned by a Lebanese family suspected of organized crime, and three family members were detained.

TRIAL THROUGH SPRING

The trial is expected to continue until some time during the spring.

The next witness slated to take the stand is the head of security at the museum, which maintains one of the world’s largest coin collections with more than half a million pieces.

FIVE BIG COINS

The Mint struck a very limited quantity of 100-kilogram gold coins after unveiling the first Big Maple Leaf in 2007. Only five examples were ever purchased by investors from around the world, and the stolen coin was one of those pieces.

The coin belonged to one of Berlin’s most significant numismatic collections, the Münzkabinett collection, which includes more than 540,000 pieces.

Although the coin was issued with a face value of $1 million, its bullion value sits at about $5.4 million today. In addition to its weight of 100 kilograms, the “Big Maple Leaf” has a 53.34-centimetre diameter and a 3.81-centimetre thickness.

The Big Maple Leaf was certified by Guinness World Records to be the world’s largest gold coin in October 2007. Produced at the Mint’s Ottawa facility, the coin features a hand-polished maple leaf design by Mint artist and senior engraver Stan Witten on its reverse. The obverse bears the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II by Susana Blunt.

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