By KIRSTEN GRIESHABER
BERLIN (AP) — Some 300 German special police raided several buildings in Berlin early Wednesday in connection with the brazen heist of a 100-kilogram (221-pound) Canadian gold coin stolen from one of the city’s most famous museums earlier this year.
Heavily-armed masked police arrested at least two suspects, one wearing a hood over his head, during the raids in the city’s Neukoelln neighborhood.
“We assume that the two suspects match the ones seen on the video footage from surveillance cameras,” police spokesman Winfrid Wenzel told The Associated Press.
He said searches of the apartments were still continuing, but so far the coin hadn’t been found.
Experts think the coin may have been melted down to cash in on the gold, Wenzel added. Police also searched a jewelry store in the neighborhood. They said they had indications the store may have been involved in the possible sale of the gold, the German news agency dpa reported.
The Canadian “Big Maple Leaf” coin, worth several million euros (dollars), was stolen from the Bode museum in March.
Police say the three-centimeter (1.2-inch) thick gold coin, with a diameter of 53 centimeters (20.9 inches) has a face value of 1 million Canadian dollars ($750,000). By weight alone, however, it would be worth almost $4.5 million at market prices. Police say the coin was likely damaged in the theft.
At least two burglars broke into the museum at night, using a ladder to climb to a window from elevated railway tracks. They grabbed the coin, loaded it onto a wheelbarrow and then carted it out of the building and along the tracks across the Spree river before descending into a park on a rope and fleeing in a getaway car.
Police had published footage from surveillance video asking the public for help in finding the thieves.
The coin, which has an image of Queen Elizabeth II on one side and maple leaves on the other, was on loan from a private, unidentified person, dpa reported. It’s one of only five that were made by the Royal Canadian Mint.