LONDON – A wealthy U.S. businessman with a passion for books about the Middle East was sentenced to two years in jail Friday for stealing pages from rare texts at two of Britain's most venerable libraries.
Farhad Hakimzadeh sneaked a scalpel into the London's British Library to surgically removed leaves from books, according to library staff. He used the pilfered pages to replace lower-quality parts of his own copies of the works.
Judge Peter Ader at London's Wood Green Crown Court said Hakimzadeh, the Harvard-educated director of an Iranian cultural organization and a published author, must have known the damage he was causing.
"You have a deep love of books, perhaps so deep that it goes to excess," Ader said. "I have no doubt that you were stealing in order to enhance your library and your collection."
Hakimzadeh targeted books at the British Library and Oxford's Bodleian Library that dealt with Europe's interaction with the Middle East. Investigators tracing his activities found damage to some 150 books dating as far back as the 16th century. A map alone taken from one of the books was worth $44,000.
Police said Hakimzadeh's incisions were so precise that only an expert would notice the missing pages, many of which were found tucked into the extensive library in his London home.
Kristian Jensen, the head of the library's British and Early Printed Collections, said Hakimzadeh violated the trust the institution had placed in him.
"These thefts have struck at the very heart of the British Library's historic collections making their loss and the vandalism that accompanied their theft especially harmful," Jensen said. Police said many of the pages he stole may be lost forever.
The 60-year-old had admitted to 14 counts of theft in May. Members of his family wept in the public gallery as the sentence was passed Friday, while he nodded his head slowly.