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The time 'the underworld' handed over a $3M emerald to the Mounties

They say the Mounties always get their man, but their track record with emeralds is perhaps less well known.

Gumshoes had trouble getting gem back, so they made an offer of immunity from prosecution

In 1979, the RCMP recovered a huge emerald that had been stolen from a German museum. 1:11

They say the Mounties always get their man, but their track record with emeralds is perhaps less well known.

RCMP Insp. Keith Dain described the exchange that brought a stolen emerald into police custody. (The National/CBC Archives)

Forty years ago, The National reported on a valuable emerald that had been stolen from a West German gem museum and was recovered rather theatrically in Vancouver.

The emerald was worth an estimated $3 million and police had figured out that it had ended up in Canada.

But further efforts to track it down had not been successful.

"Months of investigation by police in Toronto and Vancouver produced no clues," the CBC's Colin Hoath reported on The National on March 13, 1979, the day after the emerald was recovered.

Hoath said it was left to the Mounties to get it back from "the underworld" figures they believed could facilitate its return.

Fortunately for the gumshoes seeking to get the gem back for the Germans, the approach worked.

Promise of no prosecution

"I received a telephone call yesterday and I went to an office in Vancouver," RCMP Insp. Keith Dane, suppressing a laugh when describing the handover that brought the gem into police custody.

A stolen 59-carat emerald was recovered by the RCMP in Vancouver in March 1979. (The National/CBC Archives)

"I was offered a cigar and when I opened the cigar box, there was the gem."

And why did someone or some people decide to hand it over? 

"When we took our direct approach to them, we said something to the effect that 'if it's returned to us, we will guarantee that you do not get prosecuted and the heat'll be off,'" said Dane.

In a separate interview with The Canadian Press, Dane speculated the emerald had been handed back because the people who took it weren't able to sell it.

Hoath said the emerald was "to be sent back to Germany soon — under heavy guard."