Nearly 200 ‘irreplaceable’ books stolen in a sophisticated burglary by a Romanian gang in west London in January 2017 have been recovered from a village in Romania, Scotland Yard said on Friday. The books from the 16th, 17th and later centuries – including those of Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei, and Spanish painter Francisco Goya – have been described as ‘culturally significant’ and of international importance, worth more than £2.5 million.
The books were stolen by members of a Romanian gang when they were stored in a transit warehouse in Feltham before being sent to Las Vegas for a specialist book auction. The suspects broke in by cutting holes in the roof and then abseiling down, avoiding many sensors. The books were stolen in 16 large bags, with the suspects leaving the same way they entered.
Detective inspector Andy Durham said: “These books are extremely valuable, but more importantly they are irreplaceable and are of great importance to international cultural heritage. If it wasn’t for the hard work of Detective Constable David Ward and others in this Joint Investigation Team, these books would have been sadly lost to the world forever.”
Scotland Yard’s investigation identified that the suspects involved were part of the Romanian gang that was responsible for high-value warehouse burglaries across the UK. The police said the gang flies members into the UK to commit specific offenses and then fly them out of the country shortly afterward, with the stolen property taken out of the country by other gang members using different transport methods.
The gang, the police added, is linked to a number of prominent Romanian crime families who form part of the Clamparu crime group, based in the Iași region in Eastern Romania, and has a history of complex and large-scale high-value thefts, yet avoided prosecution by offending outside Romania.
Thirteen individuals were charged in the UK with conspiring to commit burglaries between December 2016 and April 2019, and to acquire criminal property. Court proceedings continue, with 12 individuals already pleading guilty.