New York: Two antique books that were stolen from Sweden`s National Library were handed back here after being recovered in the US, Indian-American legal expert Preet Bharara said today.
The books, which were once part of the collections of Swedish royalty, contain early depictions by explorers of interior areas of the US, including the Mississippi River.
"These two books, which offered the world some of the first glimpses of the extraordinary American landscape and people, were wrongfully taken from the National Library of Sweden, only to end up in the land depicted in their pages more than 300 years ago," Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara said.
"With their odyssey now complete, we are proud to be part of returning these priceless artefacts to their rightful owners, and we hope this recovery will prompt others to return antique books in their possession that were stolen from the Library," the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York said.
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge George Venizelos said: "Treasured pieces of a country`s heritage have value far beyond their price on the open market. Some things are not for sale -- or shouldn`t be."
"Anders Burius stole dozens of rare books from the National Library of Sweden, sold them, confessed to the thefts, and committed suicide. He cannot be prosecuted. But the FBI has a role in serving the interests of justice beyond arresting criminals. We are happy to have assisted in returning a part of Sweden`s cultural wealth," Venizelos said.
According to the Stipulation filed in Manhattan federal court and other documents in the public record the two books being returned are part of a group of at least 56 rare or one-of-a-kind books that were stolen from the National Library of Sweden`s collection by Anders Burius, a former employee of the Library, between 1995 and 2004.
After stealing the books, Burius consigned or sold the books to Ketterer Kunst, an auction house in Germany.
In 2004, Burius confessed to the book thefts and admitted to Swedish law enforcement officials that he had sold or consigned the books to Ketterer under the alias "Carl/Karl Fields".
Shortly after confessing to the thefts, Burius committed suicide.
Swedish authorities subsequently received information that 13 of the stolen books had been sold by Ketterer to individuals or entities in the US.
On Nov 16, 1998, Stephan Loewentheil, the owner of 19th Century Shop Rare Books in Baltimore, Maryland, purchased, without knowledge of the theft, two of the books that Burius had stolen from the National Library of Sweden.
Those two books were a Louis Hennepin book printed in Paris in 1683 by Sebastien Hure (the "Louis Hennepin book"), and a Henry Lewis book entitled printed in Dusseldorf between 1854-58 by Arntz & Comp (the "Henry Lewis book").