A German court has sentenced five gang members to up to six years in prison for snatching priceless 18th-century jewels from a Dresden museum in what has been dubbed the biggest art heist in modern history.
The court in Dresden handed down three sentences on Tuesday ranging from just under to just over six years for armed robbery, aggravated arson and grievous bodily harm for the November 25, 2019, heist.
The thieves made off with a haul worth more than $123 million (113 million euros) from the Green Vault museum. Some, but not all, of the loot was recovered in exchange for four of the defendants confessing in court.
The convicted men are members of the "Remmo clan", an extended family mostly based in Berlin known for a web of ties to organised crime in Germany.
A sixth defendant was acquitted because he produced a credible alibi - an emergency surgery at a Berlin hospital.
The plea deal came in for criticism, however, with the president of the Berlin prosecutors' association, Ralph Knispel, noting that the defendants had not been required to reveal their accomplices in exchange for lighter sentences.
'Remarkable criminal drive'
The trial, which began in January 2022, shed some light on the audacious heist but left key questions unanswered.
Although many of the historic pieces were recovered, some are feared lost forever in what presiding judge Andreas Ziegel called an act of "remarkable criminal drive" by the thieves at "one of the oldest and richest treasure collections in the world".
The loot included a sword with a diamond-encrusted hilt and a shoulder piece that contained a 49-carat Dresden white diamond.
Ziegel defended the plea deal, saying that without it "the jewels which have been classed as irreplaceable would never have returned to the Green Vault".
The court found that the defendants, aged 24 to 29, slipped into the museum through previously damaged bars on a window, smashed a display case with an axe and grabbed 21 pieces decorated with 4,300 jewels in less than five minutes.
The stolen Dresden collection was assembled in the 18th century by Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony and later King of Poland, who commissioned ever more brilliant jewellery as part of his rivalry with France's King Louis XIV.
The treasures survived Allied bombing raids in World War Two, only to be carted off as war booty by the Soviet Union. They were returned to Dresden, the historic capital of the state of Saxony, in 1958.