‘Mission Impossible’ gang who stole priceless books jailed

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Seven members of international crime ring sentenced for daring abseiling raids

The National

Oct 1, 2020

October 1, 2020


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Seven members of a gang who abseiled from warehouse skylights to steal rare books in a series of burglaries across Europe have been jailed.

The international team of burglars cut holes in the roofs of storage units and abseiled down ropes to avoid triggering electronic alarms in scenes reminiscent of the descent into a top security vault by Tom Cruise in the 1996 movie Mission Impossible.

In one five-hour raid in 2017, the gang stole more than 170 books, including original texts from the Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei and mathematician Isaac Newton and took them back to Romania for hiding.

The books were being kept in warehouse in Feltham, west London, before they were due to be shipped to Los Angeles for a book fair. After a four-year hunt, detectives last month found the books, valued at £2 million, buried under a house in Neamt, Romania.

Twelve men were being sentenced this week in the UK in connection with a dozen raids at warehouses carried out over nearly three years until April last year. They also stole electronics equipment.

Hundreds of rare books have been discovered hidden underground in Romania.
Hundreds of rare books have been discovered hidden underground in Romania.

Judge Jonathan Davies told the men at a court in Kingston upon Thames, south-west London, that “each of the burglaries was a carefully planned operation carried out with Mission Impossible skill”.

Seven of the men were jailed for terms of up to five years and nine months on Thursday. Five others will be sentenced on Friday.

Authorities said the breakthrough in the case came in January when the “kingpin” of the operation was arrested in Turin, Italy, and was transferred to the UK. During the four-year investigation more than 45 searches of properties have taken place across Europe.

Updated: October 1, 2020 09:56 PM

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