Around 200 “irreplaceable” books worth more than €2.7 million have been found buried under a house in Romania, more than three years after they were stolen from a warehouse in London.
The books, which include works by Galileo and Sir Isaac Newton, were taken during the burglary in Feltham, west London, in January 2017, according to the Metropolitan Police.
Thieves broke in by cutting holes in the roof and avoided sensors by abseiling down into the warehouse, where the books were being stored ahead of being sent to Las Vegas for a specialist book auction.
Priceless historical antiques included first editions of Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton from the XVI and XVII century . 📚📙 The books were reported stolen from a warehouse in the UK in 2017 and were uncovered buried underground in Romania: https://t.co/yXMHtIkDQV 👏👏👏 pic.twitter.com/AMQDo6My97
— Europol (@Europol) September 18, 2020
Officers recovered the items on Wednesday following the underground search of a house in Neamt, in north-east Romania.
An investigation identified the suspects as part of a Romanian organised crime group, responsible for high-value warehouse burglaries across the UK.
The group has been linked to another 11 offences in London where a further £2 million worth of goods have been stolen, using the same method of entering the property through a roof.
As part of an international operation, officers from Scotland Yard have been working alongside officers from the Romanian National Police and Italian Carabinieri, supported by Europol and Eurojust.
Some 45 addresses have been raided across the UK, Romania and Italy.
The Metropolitan Police said 13 individuals were charged in the UK with conspiring to commit burglaries between December 2016 and April 2019, and to acquire criminal property.
Some 12 of those have pleaded guilty and will be sentenced later this month, while the 13th defendant will be tried in March, the force added.
Detective inspector Andy Durham, from Specialist Crime South, said: “This recovery is a perfect end to this operation and is a demonstration of successful joint working between the Met and our European law enforcement partners in Romania and Italy – and at Europol and Eurojust.
“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.”