Sweden said Tuesday that it has received a formal request from Poland to help investigate the theft of the infamous Auschwitz death camp sign.
Justice Ministry spokesman Martin Valfridsson said Sweden was asked to supply legal assistance early Tuesday. He could not give more details.
The Arbeit Macht Frei ("Work Sets You Free) sign, was stolen in December and found two days later cut into three pieces. Police have arrested five men in connection with the theft.
Poland's request fuels speculation that there may be a Swedish link to the heist.
The British tabloid Sunday Mirror reported that an unnamed wealthy British Nazi sympathizer living in Sweden was the impetus for last month's theft, but investigators have not confirmed that.
The British collector reportedly let it be known in the wider neo-Nazi scene that he was prepared to pay a large amount of money for the sign, the recent theft of which has caused a global stir.
The collector wanted it as a trophy - and used his neo-Nazi contacts to put word out he was prepared to pay huge money for it," a source in Sweden told the Mirror.A Polish man, identified as Marcin A, has been remanded to three months of pre-trial custody, on charges of organizing the theft.
The four men who allegedly performed the actual theft are being held for the same period as they await trial. If found guilty, they could face up to 10 years in prison.
Polish police announced the recovery of the sign on December 20. It had been defaced and cut into three pieces, allegedly in preparation for shipment to a buyer.
The Sunday Mirror quoted the source as saying the plan had been to ship the sign to a group of Swedish neo-Nazis, who would keep it in a cellar in Stockholm until they could transfer it to the British collector.
The paper reported that, had the sale gone through, the money would have been used to fund neo-Nazi projects in Sweden, including possible plans to disrupt elections scheduled for this year.
According to the report, the thieves panicked at the amount of attention their theft had caused, fleeing the Baltic port of Gdansk and dumping the sign in nearby woods. The paper reported it was retrieved after a tip from a Swedish middleman.
The paper reported that a police search continues for "a European mastermind" behind the crime.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now