More than two million euros worth of books have been seized and 15 suspects arrested by Romanian, British and Italian authorities as part of an investigation into the theft of 260 antiquarian books, including original editions by Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton. All 15 of the suspects arrested were of Romanian origin.
The international criminal organisation behind the thefts were known to the authorities for a large number of burglaries perpetrated throughout Europe. According to Eurojust, the European Union’s Judicial Cooperation Unit, the gang stole the books from a warehouse in Feltham, UK, in January 2017, where they were being stored before they were due to be shipped for display at a book fair in Los Angeles. According to reporting at the time, the gang climbed on to the warehouse roof and bored holes through the reinforced glass-fibre skylights before abseiling down 40ft of rope while avoiding motion-sensor alarms.
Four containers were broken open and books placed in holdalls which were lifted to the roof on ropes and then lowered to a getaway van.
One of the most valuable books taken was a 1566 copy of De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium by astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, in which Copernicus posited his theory that the earth orbits the sun rather than the sun revolving around the earth. The book has an estimated value of about 240,000 euros.
Eurojust collaborated with Interpol, the International Criminal Police Organization to streamline cooperation between the authorities in Romania, the United Kingdom and Italy.
The Romanian Directorate for Investigating Organise Crime and Terrorism, the Romanian National Police, the UK Metropolitan Police Service Specialist Crime South and the Italian Carabinieri Special Unit for the Protection of Cultural Heritage participated in the joint action.