By Charlotte Gill
Last updated at 3:17 AM on 21st November 2008
Facing jail: Iranian scholar Farhad Hakimzadeh was an expert on the books he was stealing from
A wealthy historian is facing jail after stealing hundreds of pages from priceless ancient books for his personal collection.
Farhad Hakimzadeh, 60, expertly cut the pages from treasured travel chronicles stored at the British Library in London and Oxford’s Bodleian Library over eight years.
It was only when a reader at the British Library noticed scalpel marks in a book in June 2006 that staff were alerted.
Iranian-born Hakimzadeh became the prime suspect.
Experts painstakingly sifted through each of the 842 unique books dating back to the 16th century which he had read since becoming a member in 1998.
The multi-millionaire was arrested and Dr Kristian Jensen, head of British collections at the library, went with police to search his £6million Knightsbridge home.
They found hundreds of pages, some loose and some attached into his own copies of the same books.
The married grandfather will be sentenced today at Wood Green Crown Court in North London.
He pleaded guilty to ten counts of theft from the British Library and four from the Bodleian relating to books worth £140,000, with 20 offences taken into account.
Library officials believe 150 more books were vandalised by Hakimzadeh and are pursuing a civil prosecution.
Vandalism: Dr Kristian Jensen, Head of British Collections at the British Library displays the damage done to rare books by Hakimzadeh
The British Library said its damaged texts – the writings of Western explorers in Mesopotamia, Persia and the Mogul empire – were worth more than £300,000, while the Bodleian said the value of its ruined books was ‘incalculable’.
Hakimzadeh has never explained why he stole the pages but investigators believe he wanted to improve his collection.
Dr Jensen said yesterday: ‘He has a profound knowledge of the field. That makes it worse because he knew the importance of what he was damaging.
‘This is somebody extremely rich who has damaged something that belongs to everybody for his personal benefit.
Hakimzadeh used a scalpel to cut pages from rare books he found in the British Library. Investigators had to sift through hundreds of books to find the damage
‘The violation of the collections by Hakimzadeh transcends mere monetary loss. His victims are the researchers of the future who will not be able to consult this material.’
Detective Chief Inspector Dave Cobb, of the Metropolitan Police, said: ‘It is extremely difficult to detect the absence of these pages.
‘The original owner might have commissioned additional illustrations or pages might have been missing when the libraries acquired them.’