Seven accused of stealing €3m ancient maps

More than 100 images were stolen from the Bibliothèque d'Etude et du Patrimoine in Toulouse

Hundreds of maps, some of which date back to the 15th and 16th centuries were stolen from libraries across France

Seven people have gone on trial accused of stealing thousands of ancient maps and illustrations from libraries across France.

The six men and one woman allegedly used cutters to remove maps from books at libraries in Toulouse, Narbonne, Nancy, Lille, Besançon and Albi, the tribunal correctionnel de Bordeaux was told

The thefts were only discovered after someone carrying more than 100 maps, some of which dated back to the 15th and 16th centuries, was stopped at the Hungarian border in 2012.

Several of the maps bore the stamp of the Bibliothèque d'Etude et du Patrimoine in Toulouse, which prompted officers to dispute the carrier's claims that they had been bought in Italy and alert French authorities. A year later seven people were arrested in France and Hungary, including internationally recognised historical map expert Tibor Szathmari.

In total, 110 maps were found to have been stolen from the Bibliothèque d'Etude et du Patrimoine.

While the total value of the thefts has been estimated at some €3million, the damage caused to ancient manuscripts when they were stolen has not yet been calculated, officials in Toulouse have said.

The court is expected to rule on Friday.

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