A Hungarian organised criminal group, specialising in the theft of rare and valuable maps, has been dismantled by Hungarian and French law enforcement authorities, supported by Europol.
After a lengthy two-year investigation,* a common action day has led to the arrests of 11 criminal group members (7 in Hungary; 4 in France) and the seizure of more than 400 stolen antique maps in Hungary. Today, 110 valuable maps of French origin seized in this operation are being returned to French authorities during an official ceremony at the French Embassy in Budapest. The ceremony will be attended by the Hungarian Minister of Interior, the French ambassador, the French Police and Home Affairs attaché in Hungary, representatives of the French and Hungarian investigators, and Europol.
According to intelligence, the criminals usually stole to order from national archives, libraries and cultural institutions all over the EU. After gaining access to valuable books – often from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries – they cut out the desired maps or pages before smuggling them out of the building.
The members of this criminal group are suspected of having committed thefts with this modus operandi in Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Switzerland.
Global losses caused by the group are thought to be in the millions of euros, but the stolen objects have a priceless cultural and historical value to the countries from which they were stolen.
The investigation is still ongoing with suspects in jail awaiting trial.
Europol supported the investigation by organising operational meetings between the investigators and providing ad-hoc analysis of case intelligence. In addition, an alert report warning EU law enforcement authorities about this specific modus operandi was issued. International law enforcement coordination is essential to solve such cases and Member States are therefore encouraged to report similar cases in their countries to national authorities and Europol.
* Led by the Hungarian NNI and the French OCBC, supported by the French international cooperation directorate (DCI) and Europol.