New Zealand police offer record reward for stolen Army medals

( dpa )- New Zealand police announced Thursday a record reward of 300,000 New Zealand dollars (about 234,000 US dollars) for information leading to the recovery of 100 medals, including nine Victoria Crosses, stolen from the Army Museum more than a month ago.

The Victoria Cross is the highest award for military gallantry in the British Commonwealth. The missing medals include the cross and bar awarded to Charles Upham - the only man to win the award in combat twice in its 151-year history - for acts of bravery in Crete and North Africa in 1941 and 1942 during World War II.

Observers said the reward indicated police had no clues about who took the medals in a quick early morning raid on the museum December 2 near a major Army base at Waiouru , in the central North Island 300 kilometres north of Wellington.

Military experts said the medals could be worth millions of dollars on the black market, but they are engraved with the names of the soldiers who won them and are so recognizable that they could never be sold on the open market or exhibited publicly.

Police Commissioner Howard Broad said the reward, three times bigger than any previous police offer for information, reflected the loss of "national treasures."

Broad said the reward money included an offer of 200,000 New Zealand dollars (about 154,000 US dollars) by British collector Lord Michael Ashcroft, who owns 146 VCs, about a tenth of all the Victoria Crosses ever awarded, with the balance of the award from a New Zealand businessman who wants to remain anonymous.

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