A group of Romanian nationals stored 170 rare books worth more than £1.3 million in a Tooting warehouse, a court heard.
The haul, including first editions of Galileo and Isaac Newton, were stolen by raiders who drilled holes through skylights and abseiled 40ft into a warehouse to bypass a complex security system, the court was told.
The men are said to have smuggled rare books to Romania via the Eurotunnel with the intent to be sold on the black market.
An additional minimum of £1.5 million worth of high-value electronics and cash were also stolen across 12 “highly organised” burglaries committed between December 2016 and April 2019.
Seven Romanian nationals accused of conspiring to burglary and one man who is said to have acted as a “fence” to conceal the group’s illegal products appeared on trial at Kingston Crown Court to face the charges.
Gavril Popinciuc, Vasille Paragina, Marian Albu, Traian Mihulca, Marian Mamaliga, Ilie Ungureanu, Liviu Leahu deny conspiracy to commit burglaries and conspiracy to disguise and remove criminal
Mohammed Enus, the accused “fence”, denies conspiracy to disguise and remove criminal property and handling stolen goods.
Victor Opariuc, Narcis Popescu and Daniel David all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit burglary last week and will be sentenced in June.
Prosecutor Catherine Farrelly said one heist saw the criminal network target a warehouse in Feltham in January 2017 that held a large number of culturally significant books that were prepared to be delivered to a book fair in the United States.
The seven defendants Popinciuc, Paragina, Albu, Mihulca, Mamaliga, Ungureanu, Leahu and Enus, who sat in court quietly listening to the Romanian interpreter, deny the charges.
The trial, scheduled to last 18 weeks, continues.