French prosecutors on Thursday sought prison terms of up to seven years for a group of Hungarians on trial over accusations they stole rare maps worth millions of euros from a string of French libraries.
Investigators say the suspects, six men and a woman, honed a methodical scheme of presenting fake library cards in order to consult tomes from the 16th to 18th centuries in cities including Toulouse, Nancy and Lille.
They would then surreptitiously cut out the maps with craft knives, making off with historical prints worth an estimated four million euros ($4.7 million) between 2011 and 2013.
They were tripped up in 2012 when one of the accused was stopped and his car searched by Hungarian customs officers, who found 110 ancient maps, some of which had been stamped by the Toulouse public library in southern France.
Andras Katona, a self-described plumber, said he had bought the entire lot of maps — later valued at 450,000 euros — “at an Italian market from a gypsy who spoke ‘Yugoslavian’.”
Hungarian officials alerted the French police, who determined the maps were indeed stolen from Toulouse.