Thieves Melted Down Some of Their Looted Ancient Coins

But authorities in Germany hold out hope of retrieving most of the 483 Celtic coins stolen
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 20, 2023 12:23 PM CDT
Germany Busts 4 in Heist of 483 Celtic Gold Coins
Comparison coins are shown during a press conference on the arrests in the Manching gold theft case in Munich, Germany, Thursday July 20, 2023.   (Uwe Lein/dpa via AP)

Investigators looking into the theft of hundreds of ancient gold coins from a German museum have found lumps of gold that appear to have resulted from part of the treasure being melted down, officials said. Four suspects were arrested Tuesday over the Nov. 22 break-in at the Celtic and Roman Museum in the Bavarian town of Manching in which 483 Celtic coins discovered during an archaeological dig in 1999 were stolen. The coins date to around 100 BC. Authorities said Thursday that DNA found on an object outside the museum, which they wouldn't identify, led them to the suspects, three of whom they linked to a series of previous break-ins in Germany and Austria dating back to 2014. The Manching robbery appeared to be the alleged gang's first targeting cultural treasures, reports the AP.

The coins and a lump of unworked gold were originally discovered during excavations of an ancient settlement in Manching, and authorities have said they are considered the biggest trove of Celtic gold found in the 20th century. Authorities have examined 18 lumps of gold that were recovered this week. Each is believed to be the result of four coins being melted down, though a further analysis is ongoing. "We know that about 70 gold coins have apparently been lost irretrievably in their cultural and historical significance," said Bavaria's state culture minister, Markus Blume. "But that means that of course there is still hope of perhaps being able to find the rest of the gold coins, and so the majority of the gold."

The German suspects—a telecoms engineer, an accountant, a shop manager, and a demolition firm employee—haven't given any information to authorities since their arrest, officials said. A judge on Wednesday ordered them kept in custody pending a possible indictment on charges of gang robbery, which can carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years. Three of them are also suspected of participating in 11 other robberies or attempted robberies between 2014 and 2022 in which supermarkets, a vehicle registration office, and a casino were targeted.

(More heist stories.)

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