Four suspects in the shocking theft of a hoard of Celtic gold coins from the Celtic-Roman Museum in Manching, Bavaria, were arrested. The bad news is that at the time of his arrest, one of the suspects had 18 bars of gold in a plastic bag. Micro X-ray fluorescence analysis of the composition of the nuggets showed that they correspond to the composition of Celtic coins. Each piece is four coins. So yes, these rats stole a historically priceless hoard of 483 Celtic coins from 100 BC. and melted down at least 70 of them. There is no good news, but a little comfort can be found in the authorities’ hope that most of the coins are still there, hidden by thieves to minimize the chance of arousing suspicion while the investigation is still pending.
The estimated market value of the coins, if sold commercially, was approximately $1.8 million. The value of the 3.7 kg (8 lb) gold coin alone was worth about $278,000 at the time of the robbery. Both figures, of course, pale in comparison with the archaeological significance of the treasure. Discovered in 1999 at the site of a Celtic settlement in what is now Munching, the treasure was buried in a sack under the foundations of an ancient building. Analysis of the coins showed that the source of the metal was not local; it was Czech river gold. The hoard was the largest find of Celtic gold in the 20th century. It was exhibited at the museum in 2006 and became its hallmark.
The theft was meticulously planned and carried out in just nine minutes from breaking in to escaping. At 1:17 a.m. on November 22, 2022, fiber optic lines were cut at the telecommunications hub closest to the museum, causing the museum (and 13,000 other customers) to be disconnected from the Internet and telephone service. With the museum’s security system disabled, the thieves entered through the emergency exit at 1:26 a.m., smashed the bulletproof safety glass covering the treasure, and exited the door at 1:33 a.m. with the loot.
Investigators from the Bavarian State Criminal Police Office (BLKA) thoroughly searched the area around the museum, finding two crowbars, a pair of garden shears, wire cutters and a radio antenna. DNA traces on the crime weapons link the theft to eight similar ones in Germany and Austria. Months of persistent pursuit allowed the suspects to be traced back to northern Germany, and warrants were issued for their arrest by the Ingolstadt prosecutor’s office. A search of 28 apartments, businesses, gardens, boathouses and vehicles revealed a large amount of burglary equipment.
One of the gang members is a telecommunications engineer, hence the fiber optic corner. The other three are an accountant, a store manager, and an employee at a tolerable firm. Evidence links the four suspects to 11 other thefts at supermarkets, casinos, gas stations and ATMs, but this was the first to target cultural heritage sites. They seemed to enjoy it, because investigators found that the cars rented by the suspects this year stopped outside museums in Frankfurt, Idar-Oberstein, Trier and Pforzheim.
The suspects have not provided any information since their arrest. Authorities are looking for any surviving coins in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, where three of the four were arrested. The search will also target other areas affected by this extensive investigation.