Tuesday, September 22, 2020

$3 Million Worth of Stolen Books Found Underground in Romania


Back in January 2017, in a heist that sounds like something out of the latest Mission Impossible movie, a gang of Romanian thieves  cut a hole in the roof of a London postal transit warehouse and "abseiled" 40 feet to the floor, dodging sensors all the way. They were after a collection of rare books being stored in that warehouse prior to shipment to a rare-books auction being held in Las Vegas. They escaped with the books, said to be worth over $3 million, the same way they came into the building. 

Now, almost four years later, the books have been recovered, and according to BBC News, thirteen people have been arrested: 

The gang is responsible for a series of high-value warehouse burglaries across the UK, London's Metropolitan police said in a statement.
Officers discovered the books underground during a search of a house in the region of NeamÈ›, in north-eastern Romania, on Wednesday.
The find follows raids on 45 addresses across the UK, Romania and Italy in June 2019, investigators say. Thirteen people have been charged, 12 of whom have already pleaded guilty.
The hoard includes rare versions of Dante and sketches by the Spanish painter Francisco de Goya, as well as the titles by Galileo and Isaac Newton dating back to the 16th and 17th Centuries.

 It's hard to believe that this kind of thing happens in the real world and not just in movies and books. Apparently, the thieves were willing to sit on the books as long as it took to figure out a way to turn them into actual cash - something that must be near impossible for books as rare and as well documented as these are. 

And now, I can't help but wonder if being stored underground in those conditions for almost four years has damaged the books despite how well they seem to be wrapped in the below photo from the Metropolitan Police. High humidity is a book-killer, and from the looks of this underground vault, damp conditions appear likely. Somewhere, an insurance company or two are breathing big sighs of relief about now.

Metropolitan Police Photo

14 comments:

  1. What a crazy story! Rare books. A gang of Romanian thieves. An underground hiding place. It sounds made up. :D

    ReplyDelete
  2. It does sound like the plot of a film doesn't it? I too hope the books are not damaged!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For sure, Cath. Probably not one I'd even watch unless I was ready to suspend my sense of disbelief for the duration. You have to wonder who the mastermind of this theft was, don't you?

      Delete
  3. I would hope that if this gang was smart enough to pull off this theft and willing enough to wait however long it took for it to safely profit from its ill-gotten gains, that it would also maximize profits by storing them properly.

    All of which leads to a personal paradox of sorts. I do not condone any form of theft. Way back in the mists of time, I worked in a vault for a large retail chain. I spent my days in there, only coming out for lunch and breaks. After awhile, it dawned on me that every time someone asked me what I did and then asked "Don't you find working with all that money a temptation?" every single time, that person had been fired for theft. Every. Single. Time. I mentioned it to the head of security one day, and Bob raised his eyebrow and said, "Any time that happens again, let me know." Anyway... back to the paradox.

    I don't condone theft, but I absolutely love a good heist book/film. Love 'em to bits!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope they took the proper precautions, Cathy. The mind behind this heist is a brilliant one, for sure. Getting a gang into a foreign country, breaking into what had to be a fairly well guarded warehouse, getting out with the books, and then getting them all the way back to Romania is a lot harder than it sounds...and it sounds hard enough.

      They must have had a market in mind for the books or they wouldn't have grabbed them...maybe the cops were always so close to catching them that they didn't dare try to move the books.

      Interesting story about working in the vault...sounds like you are onto something. Honestly, it doesn't sound like a place I'd want to spend entire work days in. I figure it would all start to seem like paper, not money, after a while.

      Delete
    2. That's exactly right. Just pieces of paper with numbers on them, and not my pieces of paper. I didn't mind working in the vault. I'm an only child, never had kids, didn't get married until I was almost fifty-- I enjoy my own company. Besides, I got to sit in there and work on training manuals and newsletters as well, and working with words is always a pleasure for me.

      Delete
    3. Now, it's staring to sound like the perfect job. :-)

      Delete
  4. You always find the most interesting, sometimes downright crazy stories.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Diane. This one was just too good to leave it as a quick read all by myself.

      Delete
  5. I read about this! It might make a good novel!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The whole time I was reading the couple of articles I found about it, I was hearing the Mission Impossible music in my head. LOL

      Delete
  6. WOW! I had no idea heists like this happened in real life. I'm glad the thieves were caught, even if it took a few years!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hear you. The best thing about the story is that the books will now get back into the hands of people who appreciate them for what they represent. We got lucky this time.

      Delete