AFP: A wealthy Iranian businessman was jailed for two years on Friday for stealing pages from rare books in Britain's top libraries to improve his own collection.
LONDON (AFP) — A wealthy Iranian businessman was jailed for two years on Friday for stealing pages from rare books in Britain's top libraries to improve his own collection.
Farhad Hakimzadeh, 60, admitted used a scalpel to remove selected pages from priceless volumes in reading rooms at the British Library in London and the world-famous Bodleian Libary in Oxford.
"As an author, you cannot have been unaware of the damage you were causing," said judge Peter Ader, passing sentence at Wood Green Crown Court in London. "You have a deep love of books, perhaps so deep that it goes to excess.
"I have no doubt that you were stealing in order to enhance your library and your collection. Whether it was for money or for a rather vain wish to improve your collection is perhaps no consolation to the losers," he added.
Hakimzadeh is a wealthy book expert and managed to smuggle the pages out under the noses of librarians. "He has a profound knowledge of the field," said Kristian Jensen, head of collections at the British Library, during the trial.
"So in a sense, from my point of view, that makes it worse because he actually knew the importance of what he was damaging.
"I'm angry because this is somebody extremely rich who has damaged something which belongs to everybody, completely selfishly destroyed something for his own personal benefit which this nation has invested in over generations."
In all, 150 books were defaced, including works from the 16th century, all of them concerned with relations between Europe and the Middle East. The 10 books damaged in the British Library alone were worth 71,000 pounds.
One map removed by Hakimzadeh — a director of the Iranian Heritage Foundation who pleaded guilty to 14 charges of theft in May — was worth 30,000 pounds.
"It proved extremely difficult for the libraries to detect the absence of these pages as Hakimzadeh took care to select material that only an expert would be able to identify," said Metropolitan Police detective Dave Cobb.
"He chose unique and rare editions and was therefore able to go undetected for some time. Some of the stolen pages were recovered at his home address but many more have been lost forever."