Organised crime likely behind Celtic gold heist - Official
Coins of the Celtic Treasure are on display at the local Celtic and Roman Museum in Manching, Germany, May 31, 2006. A senior official said Wednesday that organized crime groups were likely behind the theft of a huge horde of ancient gold coins stolen from a museum in southern Germany this week. (Frank Maechler/dpa via AP, file)

BERLIN (AP) — A senior official in southern Germany said Wednesday that organised crime groups were likely behind the theft of a huge horde of ancient gold coins stolen from a museum this week.

The 483 coins were discovered in 1999 during excavations of an ancient settlement near the present-day town of Manching and were on display at the local Celtic and Roman Museum.

“It’s clear that you don’t simply march into a museum and take this treasure with you,” Bavaria’s minister of science and arts, Markus Blume, told public broadcaster BR. “It’s highly secured and as such there’s a suspicion that we’re rather dealing with a case of organised crime.”

Blume said that all of the museum’s security systems, along with Manching’s entire telephone network, had been disabled during the heist.

A German news agency reported that in addition to the 483 coins, dating back to around 100 BC, three other items were stolen from a second display cabinet.

Authorities fear the treasure, worth millions of euros, could be melted down, meaning the bowl-shaped coins would be lost to science.

Police and prosecutors planned to hold a news conference in Manching on Wednesday afternoon.

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