Academic jailed for two years for vandalising antique books

Publisher sliced pages out of rare volumes to add to his personal library, court hears

Farhad Hakimzadeh, a wealthy academic and publisher, loved nothing more than caring for the books in his personal library and showing them off to fellow scholars. Even on his wedding night, his obsession was such that his bride was left waiting as he dusted off the covers of his precious tomes.

Staff at the world-famous British and Bodleian libraries never assumed anything was amiss when the dedicated bibliophile regularly turned up to pore over their ancient and rare manuscripts. But, out of sight of security cameras, the 60-year-old would slip a scalpel out of his pocket and carefully slice out particular pages. Returning home he would place the stolen texts, plates or maps into matching copies in his collection, which he told friends and family was the fourth-best in the world.

The incisions were invisibly made from volumes that only experts would know had been defaced. Hakimzadeh's crime went unchecked for years until a professor noticed several leaves missing from a 17th-century work by the traveller Sir Thomas Herbert. An investigation led to Hakimzadeh's £3m home in Knightsbridge, west London, and yesterday he was jailed for two years after admitting 14 theft charges.

The Iranian-born philanthropist and author caused £145,000 of damage to 150 rare books at the libraries, Wood Green Crown Court heard. But those tasked with guarding Britain's literary heritage said the cost of the "mutilation" of such books was incalculable.

Yesterday, as his family wept in the public gallery, the defendant simply nodded slowly as he was sentenced.

Hakimzadeh, who holds a US passport, was described as an "extraordinary" man by Judge Peter Ader, who acknowledged that he had done much to further academic relations between Iran and the West and had set up a charity to help disadvantaged women in the Islamic republic.

"As an author, you cannot have been unaware of the damage you were causing," he said. "You have a deep love of books, perhaps so deep that it goes to excess. I have no doubt 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, who founded the Iranian Heritage Foundation, became a member of the British Library in 1998 and began stealing from the Bodleian in 2003. When investigators examined 842 books he had looked at, they found 143 had been defaced. Police discovered the altered editions, along with several loose pages, in his library. He claimed he innocently bought the stolen pages at the Portobello Road antiques market.

Hakimzadeh's barrister William Boyce, QC, said his client was a wealthy man who had no need to steal the items for financial gain, and had instead been motivated by obsessive compulsive disorder. The thefts were an "aberration", he added.

The British Library has launched a civil case against Hakimzadeh. Dr Kristian Jensen, the library's head of British collections, said after yesterday's hearing: "This is the targeted mutilation ... and an attack on the nation's collective memory of its past.

"Some of the objects which we believe are damaged have been cared for by the nation for centuries."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
    Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

    The dark side of Mexico

    A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

    Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border