A treasure trove of rare and historically important books worth £2.5million that was stolen from a warehouse in London three years ago has been found in Romania.
Detectives uncovered the stash – which includes tomes by Galileo, Sir Isaac Newton and Spanish painter Francisco Goya – underneath the concrete floor of a rural house in the northern county of Neamt on September 16.
The books were hidden there by a Romanian crime family called the Clamparu, after being stolen in an Ocean’s Eleven-style raid on a warehouse in Feltham in 2017.
A trove of rare books worth in excess of £2.5million has been uncovered under the floor of a house in rural Romania, three years after being snatched from a warehouse in London
Gangsters targeted the books while they were being stored in the warehouse ahead of a journey to Las Vegas, where they were due to feature in a specialist auction.
The thieves broke in through the roof and abseiled down into the building, so as to avoid tripping sensors that would have set off the alarms.
Ignoring everything else that was stored in the warehouse, they cracked open crates containing the books and stole only the most valuable volumes.
The books were then loaded into 16 holdall bags, and the thieves scaled back up the ropes and into a waiting van, which acted as a getaway vehicle.
The stash – which was due for a specialist auction before being taken – includes works by Galileo and Newton
Some of the multi-million pound collection have been deemed to be of international importance and are considered irreplaceable, police said.
It took the international manhunt made-up of the Met Police, the Romanian National Police and the Italian Carabinieri, along with Europol and Eurojust, more than three years to track the books down.
Police carried out a series of raids that led them to the find on Wednesday.
The Met police the Clamparu are known as specialist thieves, and were behind a string of high-value warehouse burglaries across the UK.
They operated by flying members into the UK to commit the crimes, before flying them back out of the country a short time after.
The stolen property would then be taken out of the country by other members of the gang using different transport methods.
Scotland Yard said the gang accused of stealing the books is linked to a number of prominent Romanian crime families who form part of the Clamparu crime group.
This group is based in the Isai region in Eastern Romania and have a history of complex, large-scale, high value thefts.
Many of them have avoided prosecution by offending outside of the country.
The thieves broke in through the roof of the warehouse in Feltham, London, abseiled down to avoid alarms, snatched the books then got away in a van
The group has been linked to 11 offences across the UK with a further £2 million worth of property stolen, generally using the same commando-style method.
Investigations into the group culminated in multiple arrests and coordinated searches of 45 addresses across the UK, Romania and Italy in June 2019, police said.
Those raids uncovered information which eventually led detectives to the house in Romanian where the book were being stored.
Little is known about the inner workings of the Clamparu, though a prominent member of the family – Ioan Clamparu – was arrested in Spain in 2011 for people smuggling.
Ioan, known as ‘Pig’s Head’, was sentenced to 30 years in jail in 2012 for smuggling more than 100 women into Spain between 2000 and 2004, where they were forced into prostitution.
Little is known about the inner workings of the Clamparu family, but a man believed to be the boss – Ioan Clamparu, known as ‘pig’s head’ – was jailed in Spain in 2012 for people smuggling
He had already been sentenced to 13 years in Romania for drug and people trafficking, and in 1989 had been sentenced to 15 years for murder.
Speaking about the most recent raid, Met Police inspector Andy Durham 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.’
Thirteen suspects were charged in the UK with conspiring to commit burglaries between December 2016 and April 2019, and to receive criminal property.
Court proceedings are ongoing, with 12 individuals having already pleaded guilty and sentencing is due to take place over four days, beginning on September 28.
The thirteenth defendant will be tried in March 2021.