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Last Updated: Friday, 23 June 2006, 01:54 GMT 02:54 UK
Antiques expert admits map theft
The British Library
The map from the British Library was the oldest of those stolen
A renowned US antiques expert has admitted stealing nearly 100 maps worth $3m (1.6m) from major institutions, including the British Library.

Edward Forbes Smiley III pleaded guilty at a court in Connecticut and faces up to six years in prison.

The 50-year-old was arrested in 2005 after a razor blade was found at Yale University, where he looked at books.

A world map from 1520 from the British Library was among 97 maps he admitted taking over an eight-year period.

Smiley, who will be sentenced in September, also faces a fine of up to $1.7m (860,000).

He pleaded guilty to one count of theft of a major artwork in connection with the theft of a map from Yale University and also admitted stealing the other maps.

Hidden

When police had confronted him they found seven maps worth nearly $1m (500,000) hidden in his pockets and briefcase.

His arrest sparked a global FBI investigation in which agents emailed curators asking them to check their collections for gaps.

At British Library in London, curators discovered they were missing three maps, but only one was among those he admitted taking.

Forbes Smiley is disturbing because he is a member of the inner circle
Peter Barber
British Library

The map, by German mathematician and cartographer Peter Apian, was cut from a book called Ioannis Camertis Minoritani and is the oldest of the maps Smiley admitted removing.

It has since been recovered, along with most of the other maps, in a global hunt which involved Scotland Yard.

Smiley had sold most of the stolen maps to private dealers or collectors, the US Department of Justice said.

'Inner circle'

Last August the British Library's head of map collections, Peter Barber, told the Hartford Courant newspaper Smiley's case had been particularly unsettling because he came from the close-knit world of map collectors.

"In the past, the people who've stolen maps have been mainly outsiders - not properly professional," he said.

"Forbes Smiley is disturbing because he is a member of the inner circle."

Smiley's lawyer Richard Reeve said his client was planning to sell his homes on Martha's Vineyard and in Maine to pay the fine.

"It is in effect a decision by Mr Smiley, having done very bad acts against people and institutions who he liked, respected and worked with for a number of years, to make them whole for the damage he has done," he said.

Smiley's other victims included Harvard University library and the New York and Boston public libraries.




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