Berlin police make arrests over $5.5m gold coin museum robbery

BERLIN - German special police commandos arrested several people during raids in Berlin on Wednesday over the spectacular robbery of a 100 kilo gold coin, worth about US$4 million (S$5.5 million), from Berlin's Bode Museum in March.

Pictures showed armed police in balaclavas and paramedics outside a property in the Neukoelln area of Berlin.

"We are at the moment conducting searches and executing arrest warrants in several places in Berlin concerning the break in at the Bode museum in March," said Berlin police.

The unlikely robbery from one of Berlin's most prestigious museums in the centre of the capital, from behind bullet-proof glass stunned Germans.

The Canadian coin, named "Big Maple Leaf", which bears the image of Queen Elizabeth II, is made out of pure gold with a material value of about US$4 million. Its face value is about US$1 million.

The coin, 53 centimetres in diameter and 3 centimetres thick, even made it into the Guinness Book of Records for its unrivalled degree of purity. It was loaned to the Bode Museum in December 2010.

Police had said it was probably stolen by a group of robbers who broke into the museum through a window, possibly with a ladder. They had also said they would expect the coin to be melted down.

The Bode has one of the world's largest coin collections with more than 540,000 items.

German media showed a picture of a man being led away by police with a white garment thrown over his head to disguise his identity.