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Germany: Thieves steal hundreds of IDs

January 13, 2021

A heavy safe with hundreds of new ID cards and passports was stolen in east Germany, authorities have said. The thieves also took two finger-scanning devices.

German passport
Unidentified thieves stole a safe full of newly printed passportsImage: picture-alliance/dpa/R. Vennenbernd

Thieves stole hundreds of identity documents, including passports, when they took a safe from a German city registration office, police said on Wednesday.

Deputy mayor of the eastern German city of Kothen, Stephanie Behrendt, said "many hundreds of new identity cards and passports" had been in the lifted safe, which weighed 750 kilograms (1,650 pounds).

The city of 27,000 told residents awaiting issue of their identity documents that their stolen IDs had been disabled electronically, federal authorities had listed them as stolen and unusable, and new ones would be issued.

Palm-sized identity cards in Germany, known as Personalausweise, normally have electronic chips storing identity details, including the holder's fingerprint.

Köthen's Mayor Bernd Hauschild apologized in a letter to affected residents over the inconvenience, also urging vigilance because city uniforms had also been stolen, Mitteldeutshe Zeitung (MZ) newspaper reported.

Also stolen, said Behrendt, were devices such as two finger-print scanners and a printer normally used by the registry office to generate temporary identification.

Saxony-Anhalt police are investigating the case and told German news agency DPA that unknown perpetrators had entered city administration offices in Kothen, which was once home to composer Johann Sebastian Bach.

Mayor Hauschild acknowledged that the registry office lacked both an alarm system and surveillance cameras focused on the safe, in comments to MZ.

"Until now that had not been necessary," said Hauschild, insisting, however, that identity-document storage in the safe had met security specifications.

Last weekend's theft coincided with AFAR, a San Francisco-based travel magazine, posting Tuesday that one of several world indices sees Germany as having "the most powerful passport in the world" with visa-free access to 134 destinations — despite the coronavirus.

ipj/aw (dpa, AFP)