‘Big Maple’ thieves sentenced in Berlin
By Jesse Robitaille
The Royal Canadian Mint’s largest-ever Gold Maple Leaf (GML) – an annual bullion coin issued since 1979 – was recently struck in high relief at the Crown corporation’s Ottawa facility.
The 10-kilogram coin was on display at the Mint’s booth at PDAC 2020, billed as “the world’s premier mineral exploration and mining convention,” in Toronto this March.
“For more than 40 years, the Mint’s Gold Maple Leaf has led the global precious metal industry by setting new standards for the purity and security of gold bullion coins,” said Marie Lemay, Mint president and CEO. “We are proud to have created a 10-kilogram, 99.999 per cent pure collector edition of the Gold Maple Leaf coin as an exclusive expression of one of the world’s most admired and coveted gold coins.”
The coin’s design captures the details of the one-ounce gold bullion piece it celebrates – a maple leaf-shaped security mark, an array of radial lines on the obverse and reverse plus the trademark Walter Ott-designed sugar maple leaf in a matte proof finish.
The coin’s obverse features the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II created by portrait artist Susanna Blunt in 2003.
No more than 10 of these made-in-Canada masterpieces are available to collectors of rare and exclusive coins.
“Their price is based on a combination of the gold market rate at the time of purchase, plus a premium for manufacturing and a very low mintage,” reads a statement issued by the Mint, which is the only one in the world to craft coins in 99.999 per cent gold (also known as “Five Nines”).
Customers interested in the 10-kilogram GML can contact the Mint directly at 1-800-267-1871.
‘BIG MAPLE LEAF’ STRUCK IN 2007
In 2007, the Mint struck a series of six 100-kilogram gold coins, each known as a “Big Maple Leaf” and with a face value of $1 million.
At the time their creation, they were the largest gold coins in the world (a spot since overtaken by the Royal Australian Mint, which struck a one-tonne gold coin in 2011).
By 2017, the market value of each Big Maple had risen $4 million.
Also that year, one of the coins – on loan at Germany’s Bode Museum since 2010 – was stolen.
This February, Berlin courts sentenced three men – all under the age of 25 and with connections to organized crime – for the theft. A fourth man was acquitted.
The men stole the coin by entering the museum through a second-storey window. After breaking a bulletproof cabinet, three men carried the coin on a roller board before using a rope and wheelbarrow to carry it across railroad tracks and through a park to a getaway car.
No alarms were triggered in the theft of the coin, which had a market value of €3.3 million (nearly $5 million Cdn.) in 2017.
Cousins Ahmed Remmo and Wissam Remmo were each sentenced to four and a half years in prison and fined €3.3 million to cover for the coin’s value.
Security guard “Dennis W.” – hired just weeks before the incident – was sentenced to three years and four months and fined €100,000 (nearly $150,000 Cdn.), which was the amount he received for his part in the night-time theft.
“This relationship was the lynchpin of the crime,” said Judge Dorothee Prüfer, of the security guard’s lifelong friendship with Ahmed Remmo.
Wayci Remmo – Ahmed’s brother – was acquitted.
The men were tried as juveniles, reducing the maximum prison terms that could be imposed.
Produced at the Mint’s Ottawa facility, the Big Maple Leaf coins feature a hand-polished maple leaf design by Mint artist and senior engraver Stan Witten on its reverse.
The obverse also depicts Blunt’s effigy of Queen Elizabeth II.
The stolen coin was never recovered and is believed to have been melted down and sold after the theft.