Page last updated at 17:00 GMT, Friday, 16 January 2009

Man jailed over book page thefts

Farhad Hakimzadeh
Mr Hakimzadeh was born in Iran but is a British national

A wealthy businessman who stole and defaced pages from priceless books in the British and Bodleian libraries has been jailed for two years.

Farhad Hakimzadeh, 60, of Knightsbridge in London, pleaded guilty in May to 14 counts of theft from the libraries in London and Oxford.

Judge Peter Ader said the offences were "very serious" whether or not they were motivated by financial profit.

He sentenced him at Wood Green Crown Court in North London.

Hakimzadeh cut leaves out of rare works and inserted the pages into his own copies of the same books, the court heard.

'Lost forever'

Police found the altered editions along with several loose pages in the library at his home.

You have a deep love of books, perhaps so deep that it goes to excess. I have no doubt that you were stealing in order to enhance your library and your collection
Judge Peter Ader

The 10 British Library books he admitted damaging were valued at 71,000 alone. Experts say he had defaced a total of around 150 books.

A map worth 30,000 was cut out of one of the books.

British Library staff believe he smuggled a scalpel into the building and positioned himself away from security cameras to commit his crimes.

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

Passing sentence, Judge Peter Ader said: "As an author, you cannot have been unaware of the damage you were causing.

"You have a deep love of books, perhaps so deep that it goes to excess. I have no doubt that you were stealing in order to enhance your library and your collection.

"Whether it was for money or for a rather vain wish to improve your collection is perhaps no consolation to the losers."

A defaced 1537 British Library book
Several pages were taken from this rare 32,000 British Library book

Head of collections at the British Library Dr Kristian Jensen said: "Obviously I'm angry because this is somebody extremely rich who has damaged something which belongs to everybody... which this nation has invested in over generations."

Clive Hurst, head of rare books at the Bodleian Library, said: "We feel it's a terrible mutilation of our material, and it's damaging a source of information so it is less now then when it was complete."

Hakimzadeh is a wealthy businessman of Iranian origin - now a British national - who has published several books and is a director of the Iranian Heritage Foundation.

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."

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