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April 26, 2024

Georgia's Prosecutor Pursues Criminal Charges Against Four Nationals in Book Theft Investigation

Yesterday Bakur Abuladze, First Deputy Prosecutor General of Georgia announced the arrest of four individuals in the Eastern European country on charges of stealing rare 19th century books from national and university libraries in the Czech Republic, Germany, Estonia , France, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Switzerland.    The arrests were born out of transnational crime group operation involving law enforcement officers from France, Germany, Lithuania and Switzerland, with coordination assistance via Europol and Eurojust.  Searching aparments and places of sale a large amount of cash and hundreds of books, many with their library watermarks evident,  were recovered, including a 19th-century French-language book allegedly stolen from the National Library of Paris

According to yesterday's announcements, between 2022 and 2023 this network of  accomplices visited libraries across Europe, gaining access to collections using fake IDs with fictitious names and surnames.  Having obtained access to collection material, they then exchanged rare book editions, primarily centring on Russian classics, in particular, books by Alexander Pushkin and Nikolai Gogol which they then substituted with makeshift counterfeits selling the books onward in Russia. 

Along with the financial motive for the crime,  journalists have speculated on a  political motive, where in the large-scale operation was incentivised by buyers seeking to return literary relics to Russia.  For now this theory is just that.