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German police arrest 4 in brazen gold coin heist in Berlin

Associated Press logo Associated Press 7/12/2017 By KIRSTEN GRIESHABER, Associated Press
FILE - The Dec. 8, 2010 photo shows the 'Big Maple Leaf' coin in the Bode Museum in Berlin. Special police units in Germany have raided several homes in Berlin on Wednesday, July 12, 2017 in connection with a 100-kilogram (221-pound) gold coin stolen from the museum. (Marcel Mettelsiefen/dpa via AP) © The Associated Press FILE - The Dec. 8, 2010 photo shows the 'Big Maple Leaf' coin in the Bode Museum in Berlin. Special police units in Germany have raided several homes in Berlin on Wednesday, July 12, 2017 in connection with a 100-kilogram (221-pound) gold coin stolen from the museum. (Marcel Mettelsiefen/dpa via AP)

BERLIN (AP) — Hundreds of German special police raided several buildings in Berlin early Wednesday, arresting four suspects in connection with the brazen heist of a 100-kilogram (221-pound) Canadian gold coin stolen from one of the city's museums earlier this year.

A man is lead away by police officers in Berlin Wednesday, July 12, 2017, after special police units have raided several homes in connection with a 100-kilogram (221-pound) gold coin stolen from a city museum. The "Big Maple Leaf" coin, worth several million euros (dollars), was stolen in a spectacular heist from Berlin's Bode museum in March. (Paul Zinken/dpa via AP) © The Associated Press A man is lead away by police officers in Berlin Wednesday, July 12, 2017, after special police units have raided several homes in connection with a 100-kilogram (221-pound) gold coin stolen from a city museum. The "Big Maple Leaf" coin, worth several million euros (dollars), was stolen in a spectacular heist from Berlin's Bode museum in March. (Paul Zinken/dpa via AP)

Heavily-armed masked police arrested the suspects, one wearing a hood over his head, in Berlin's Neukoelln neighborhood. Another nine people are being questioned in the case. All suspects are related to one another and aged between 18 and 20, police said.

Masked police stand outside a house in Berlin Wednesday, July 12, 2017, after special police units have raided several homes in connection with a 100-kilogram (221-pound) gold coin stolen from a city museum. The "Big Maple Leaf" coin, worth several million euros (dollars), was stolen in a spectacular heist from Berlin's Bode museum in March. (Paul Zinken/dpa via AP) © The Associated Press Masked police stand outside a house in Berlin Wednesday, July 12, 2017, after special police units have raided several homes in connection with a 100-kilogram (221-pound) gold coin stolen from a city museum. The "Big Maple Leaf" coin, worth several million euros (dollars), was stolen in a spectacular heist from Berlin's Bode museum in March. (Paul Zinken/dpa via AP)

The raids of 13 different buildings lasted several hours, but the gold coin was not recovered.

"We assume that the coin was partially or completely sold," Carsten Pfohl of the Berlin state criminal office told reporters at a press conference. He added that police also confiscated clothes and cars to comb for traces of gold.

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.

Experts think the coin may have been melted down already to cash in on the gold. Police also searched a jewelry store in the Berlin neighborhood, saying they had indications the store may have been involved in the possible sale of the gold.

The thieves were most likely tipped off to the existence of the enormous coin by an acquaintance who worked at the museum as a guard, police said.

At least two burglars broke into the museum at night on March 27, 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.

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