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Europol Arrests Georgian Citizens for Stealing Rare Library Books Across Europe Worth €2.5 Million

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Photo: Europol Arrests Georgian Citizens for Stealing Rare Library Books Across Europe Worth €2.5 Million. Source: bnf.fr
Photo: Europol Arrests Georgian Citizens for Stealing Rare Library Books Across Europe Worth €2.5 Million. Source: bnf.fr

 Europol has arrested 4 Georgian citizens who stole more than 170 rare antique books worth about 2.5 million euros from libraries across Europe, The Guardian reports.

Three more suspects were arrested the day before. Two were previously under judicial supervision in France.

The suspects posed as scientists to gain access to the books and replace them with copies. 

"In 2022 and 2023, the criminal group managed to steal rare books from the national and historical libraries of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Switzerland," Europol said in its report.

The group of criminals replaced historical publications with modern copies. Most often, these were first editions by Russian writers and Russian-speaking writers. In total, they managed to steal at least 170 books.

The criminals posed as scholars to gain access to rare editions and produce fakes of "good quality". They also "relied on a more crude approach" and simply tracked down collections in national libraries, and later broke in and stole books.

A collection of rare Russian books - about 80 copies of the 19th century - was stolen from the library of the University of Warsaw.

In October 2023, two unidentified men broke into the National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilisations in Paris and stole a dozen manuscripts.

In May 2023, the Vilnius University Library discovered the disappearance of 17 rare Russian-language books.

In October 2023, the staff of the Geneva Library noticed the theft of several books, including four volumes of Pushkin published in 1827, 1823, 1874 and 1821, each worth more than 175,000 euros.

An 1825 edition of Pushkin's play Boris Godunov disappeared from the library of the École Normale Supérieure de Lyon in July 2023.

Some of the artefacts were sold by criminals through auction houses in St. Petersburg and Moscow, which "effectively made them irretrievable," Europol added.  

Earlier, The Gaze wrote that for the safety of visitors, arsenic-impregnated books were removed from the public access of libraries in Germany and France.

 

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