Organized crime among Arab, Kurdish and Turkish communities has come to play a central role in German movies and TV series. Part of that interest has been sparked by a number of high-profile heists.
On Tuesday, one of them made the headlines again when a fifth suspect was arrested in Berlin for the spectacular robbery last year of Dresden’s Grünes Gewölbe (“Green Vault”) museum when invaluable historical jewelry was taken.
In contrast to notorious motorbike gangs or mafia groups, the groups referred to in German media and by police as “clans” define themselves by their family ties and a shared ethnic identity. But critics say the term ”clan crime” puts family members under general suspicion, discriminating against those who are not criminals. “Clan crime” makes up less than 10% of organized crime investigations.
Three young men were sentence to several years in prison in 2020 for the theft of a huge gold coin in Berlin
The Remmo family first came to police attention in 1992 with the murder of a restaurant owner in Berlin. Since then, some of the estimated 500 family members have turned the Remmo clan into one of Berlin’s most notorious gangs with a long record of violence, drug trafficking, money laundering and fraud.
The theft of a hundred-kilo gold coin from the Berlin Bode Museum in 2017 is considered to be the Remmo clan’s most spectacular coup. Police believe the gold, worth more than €3 million ($3.6 million), is believed to have been cut to pieces and melted. Gold particles, as well as glass fragments from the museum, have been found in apartments, vehicles, and on the clothes of Remmo family members. Two young men from the Remo family and one of their associates were sentenced to several years in prison in 2020 in connection with the theft.
Prosecutors also believe that members of the Remmo clan were involved in the “Green Vault” robbery in Dresden in 2019.
The Remmos belong to the Mhallami ethnic group, primarily native to southern Turkey and Lebanon. The Remmo family had fled war-torn Lebanon and came to Europe in the 1980s. The Mhallami mostly identify as Arab and are sometimes associated with Kurdish minorities.
The rapper Bushido (second from the left) got embroiled in a court case involving a member of the Abou-Chaker family (second from the right)
Although smaller than the Remmo clan, the Abou-Chaker family and its head Arafat Abou-Chaker have attracted attention from both media and authorities in Germany for a long time.
Berlin-based Arafat Abou-Chaker took over management for Bushido, Germany’s biggest gangsta rapper, in 2008. The business relationship sparked a stir (and a hit movie), before turning sour 10 years later.
Bushido then got embroiled in a court case against Arafat Abou-Chaker, accusing him of coercion, threats, and harassment. Over the years, Abou-Chaker family members have been indicted for several crimes such as intimidation, robbery, and bodily injury. A Berlin court also dealt with several Abou-Chaker members over forged documents to sell an apartment block that did not belong to them.
The Abou-Chaker family is of Palestinian origin and fled from a Lebanese refugee camp to Europe when civil war raged in Lebanon. Just like other suspected crime families, the Abou-Chakers are believed to own several offices and other real estates in Germany.
Ibrahim Miri went to court to challenge his deportation to Lebanon in 2014 – he later violated a ban on returning to Germany
The Miri clan consists of several families of Mhallami origin. They, too, are believed to have fled to Germany at the height of the Lebanon civil war in the early 1980s. The Miri clan sometimes referred to as “M-Clan,” is particularly active in Lower Saxony, though criminal activities have also been recorded in Berlin, Bremen, and North Rhine-Westphalia.
Members of the Miri clan have been involved in crimes such as drug trafficking, extortion, and pimping prostitutes. Some prominent figures of the clan are said to have close ties to the banned motorcycle gang “Mongols MC.”
The leader Ibrahim Miri became well-known across Germany when he violated a ban on returning to Germany after having been deported to Lebanon in 2019. At the time, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer proposed a “Lex Miri” that would allow for deported asylum seekers to be locked up when re-entering Germany.
Hundreds of police officers are involved in the major raids on criminal gangs
With several thousand members, the Al-Zein clan might be one of the largest families involved in organized crimes in Germany. Its supposed boss, Mahmoud Al-Zein, published his memoirs in 2020, entitled, ”The godfather of Berlin: My way, my family, my rules.”
In his memoir, Al-Zein provides an insight into the world of clan criminality. A world that seems to be dominated by archaic ideas of honor and strict hierarchies.
Mahmoud Al-Zein came from Lebanon to Germany in 1982. Since then, his own rules often collided with German laws: He has been convicted for drug trafficking and other criminal offenses.
Many believe the German drama series 4 Blocks to be based on Al-Zein. The critically-acclaimed series tells the story of a Lebanese crime family and drug cartel in Berlin.