Twelve organised crime group members were jailed on Friday following a spate of burglaries across Britain, including a £2.5 million book theft in Feltham.
The men, who were part of a Romanian criminal network, stole valuable items from warehouses and freight depots between December 2016 and April 2019.
They were sentenced on October 1 and 2 at Kingston Crown Court for their role in thefts across the UK, including Feltham, to between three and six years in prison.
Alessandro Meda Riquier is a rare book dealer in St James’s, London and was one of the gang’s victims.
He explained: “You can print hundreds of copies of a book but each one is unique because of its binding, its provenance and sometimes its owner who has written comments in the book.
“Behind each book there is a lot of research and study, so when the theft happened they did not just take money from me – they got a part of my life!”
Meda Riquier added that he did not understand the thieves’ motives.
He said: “Books are different from gold and jewels because you can cut your jewel in a different way and it becomes impossible to recover.
“Books are different as we have lots of photos, scans, and true descriptions.
“Why did they decide to steal such a difficult object to sell?”
During the trial, six men were found to have involvement in the theft of internationally important books from a warehouse near Heathrow Airport in January 2017.
The court heard how two of these men, Daniel David and Victor Opariuc, cut holes in a perimeter fence to gain access to the warehouse.
Holes were then cut into skylights on the warehouse roof before the thieves lowered themselves onto the shelving inside.
The six men moved the books out of the UK via the Eurotunnel on 5 February 2017.
Detective Inspector Andy Durham led an investigation on behalf of the Metropolitan Police.
He said: “For over two years, this gang commuted from Romania into the UK, targeting warehouses across the country, causing huge financial losses and even forcing some to close as a result.
“They gave no consideration to the victims they targeted, and I am proud the Met investigation team, working with the Romanian National Police and the Italian Carabinieri, have brought their offending to an end.”
Their stash from the Feltham burglary, which was worth more than £2.5 million, contained original works by Italian astronomer Galileo, Sir Issac Newton, and eighteenth-century painter Francisco Goya.
The books were found by police in Neamt, Romania on 16 September.
A full police statement on the sentencing can be found here.