An Iranian millionaire has been jailed for two years after he confessed to stealing pages from 150 rare books belonging to the Bodleian and the British Library.
Farhard Hakimzadeh, a respected businessman, publisher and intellectual, cut pages from priceless books using a scalpel or razor and inserted them into his own copies, the Wood Green Crown Court in North London heard last week.
The court heard that Farhard Hakimzadeh, boasted that his personal library was the fourth best of its kind in the world – inferior only to the Bodleian, the British Library and a university library in the United States.
The combined worth of the pages stolen from the Bodleian and the British Library is estimated at about one million pounds. A map cut out of one book is worth an estimated £30,000.
Judge Peter Ader condemned the offences as “very serious,” whether or not they were motivated by financial profit.
He stressed that Hakimzadeh’s background made him entirely aware of the damage he had caused to the books he defiled.
He told Hakimzadeh, “as an author, you cannot have been unaware of the damage you were causing. You have a deep love of books, perhaps so deep that it goes to excess.
“I have no doubt that you were stealing in order to enhance your library and your collection. Whether it was for money or for a rather vain wish to improve your collection is perhaps no consolation to the losers.”
Hakimzadeh’s barrister, William Boyce, had claimed that the theft was motivated by a psychological condition. He argued that the wealthy businessman had no need to steal the items for financial gain and his crime was solely the result of his Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Richard Ovenden, the Bodleian’s Keeper of Special Collections, slammed Hakimzadeh’s actions as “cultural vandalism.”
He said, “most of these books suffered the deliberate removal of pages, and the damage caused will be permanent. The cost of the damage he caused to future scholarship in these fields is therefore significant.”
A University spokesperson stressed the long-lasting damage that had been done to the Bodleian’s collections due to Hakimzadeh’s actions. He said, “it would take a lot of staff time to restore the books.”
Hakimzadeh initially claimed he had bought the books from second-hand market stalls. Maria Colye, the Bod’s press officer said, “the thefts from the Bodleian Library were discovered when staff examined data relating to his use of the collections, based on reports from the automated stack request system.”
She added, “the Oxford University Library Services has initiated a review of security in the light of this theft; however, the Bodleian Library has to strike a balance between allowing readers access and ensuring its materials are kept securely.”