Four men with ties to the Lebanese mafia in Germany went on trial on Thursday over the heist of a giant 221-pound commemorative gold coin called the “Big Maple Leaf” valued at over $4 million.
The coin, which was on loan from a private collection, was stolen from the Bode Museum in March 2017 in Berlin. German investigators couldn’t find the coin, saying the suspects likely cut it up and sold the pieces individually.
Three of the men were identified only as Wissam R., Ahmed R. and Wayci R. The fourth man, Dennis W., was a guard at the museum for a private security company and allegedly scouted out the scene before and after the heist.
The robbers allegedly used a ladder to enter the museum’s third-floor window at night, destroyed the bulletproof glass guarding the coin, and used a wheelbarrow to transport the coin to their car. They apparently dropped the coin twice on the floor during the heist.
The ages of the men range between 20 and 24 years and are facing up to 10 years in jail if found guilty.
German media reported that the alleged robbers have ties to organized crime and are part of the Remmo extended family, a well-known Lebanese mafia family operating in Central Europe.
Last summer, German authorities went after the mafia as part of the investigation into the stolen coin, seizing properties and other assets, Sachsische Zeitung reported.
The “Big Maple Leaf” was minted back in 2007 with a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. It has a face value of one million Canadian dollars ($750,000), but by its weight alone, it is worth well over $4 million.
There are only five copies of the coin in the world, in addition to the original, and is deemed the world’s second-largest gold coin, The Local reported. The museum claims the coin is in the Guinness Book of Records for its purity of 999.99/1000 gold. The 1.18-inch thick coin has a diameter of 20.9 inches.
The trial is set to last for 12 days. The proceedings will occur in a juvenile court because the three men were under 21 in 2017 when they allegedly carried out the heist.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.