Page last updated at 20:42 GMT, Friday, 21 November 2008

Sentencing of page thief deferred

Farhad Hakimzadeh
Farhad Hakimzadeh cut pages out of rare books in the British Library

A wealthy businessman who stole pages from books in the British Library and Bodleian Library is to be sentenced at Wood Green Crown Court in January.

Farhad Hakimzadeh, 60, of Knightsbridge in London had earlier pleaded guilty to 14 offences of theft.

He took individual leaves of text and illustrations out of books from both the libraries in London and Oxford.

The 10 British Library books he admitted damaging were valued at 71,000 alone.

Hakimzadeh is a wealthy businessman of Iranian origin - now a British national - who has published several books and is on the board of directors of the UK's Iranian Heritage Foundation.

He would replace pages that were missing or damaged in his own books with leaves cut from library copies of the same texts.

The works dated from as far back as the 16th Century and all concerned European engagement with the Middle East.

He has a profound knowledge of the field. So in a sense from my point of view that makes it worse because he actually knew the importance of what he was damaging
Dr Kristian Jensen

Hakimzadeh has never revealed the motivation for his crimes and not all the pages he took have been recovered.

He initially told police that he had bought the books in his personal collection at second hand markets, but upon being interviewed for a second time refused to answer any questions.

Dr Kristian Jensen, head of British and Early Printed Collections at the British Library, said it is believed Hakimzadeh mutilated 150 of the library's items between 1997 and 2005, using "considerable skill and deceit".

Dr Jensen added: "He has a profound knowledge of the field. So in a sense from my point of view that makes it worse because he actually knew the importance of what he was damaging.

"Obviously 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, so this is something that people have paid for for a very long time.

"Some of the objects which we believe are damaged have been cared for by the nation for centuries."

'Lost forever'

Detective Chief Inspector Dave Cobb, of the Metropolitan Police, said: "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."

The British Library has launched separate civil proceedings against Hakimzadeh.

An Oxford University spokesman said: "We are pleased the criminal case, on which we co-operated closely with the police, has been brought to a close."

In 2006 Edward Forbes Smiley III was sentenced in the United States for stealing 100 maps worth 1.6m from major institutions, including a world map from 1520 from the British Library.

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