Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 27 October 2020

Haul of stolen $2m ancient books found hidden underground after Europe-wide hunt

Original Galileo and Newton texts stolen in London discovered in Romania

Hundreds of rare books have been discovered hidden underground in Romania.
Hundreds of rare books have been discovered hidden underground in Romania.

Detectives have found $2m of priceless rare books, from original Galileo and Newton texts, hidden underground in Romania after a four year hunt.

The 260 original classics were stolen by a "highly sophisticated international crime group" from a warehouse in London in 2017 before they were due to be shipped to Los Angeles for a book fair.

Despite UK police making 13 arrests the ancient books have remained hidden until this week.

On Wednesday, the Europe-wide hunt for the books, which belonged to individuals from various EU countries, saw a raid executed on a house in Romania.

The search of the property in the county of Neamt led to the discovery of the books buried underground.

They had originally been reported stolen from a warehouse in Felham, west London.

The priceless historical antiques included first editions of Galilea and Newton from the 16th and 17th centuries.

The manuscripts will now be sent to Italy for examination to verify their authenticity.

Last June police in the UK and Romania arrested 15 people and 13 have been charged with conspiring to commit burglaries between December 2016 and April 2019 and to acquire criminal property.

But the breakthrough in the investigation came in January when an international arrest warrant saw the apprehension of the "kingpin" in the operation in Turin, Italy.

"In January further outcomes emerged from this coordinated investigation with the arrest of the kingpin behind the cultural loot," Eurojust said.

"The suspect, a Romanian national wanted by the British authorities, was arrested in Italy and his arrest and collaboration were decisive for the success of this important joint operation.

"The books, which included original editions of Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton, were stolen by a highly sophisticated international organised crime group, known to the authorities for committing a large number of burglaries throughout Europe."

The 40-year-old Romanian has been transferred to the UK for trial.

The heist was allegedly committed by an organised crime group composed of Romanian nationals and led to a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) being set up between the cooperating countries, Italy, the UK and Romania, with the support of Eurojust and Europol.

"This operation is a double success for law enforcement who tracked the suspects down and recovered the stolen treasures before they went for sale," a Eurojust spokesperson said.

"Europol’s Analysis Project FURTUM, which is dedicated to tackling all areas of property crime, was involved and assisted with operational coordination, analytical support and the exchange and sharing of vital information and intelligence to support undercover agents."

During the four-year investigation more than 45 searches of properties have taken place across Europe.

Updated: September 18, 2020 03:42 PM

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