Naples, August 27 - The owner of a German auction house has been arrested in the case of systematic filching of ancient and rare volumes from the Girolamini library in Naples, prosecutors said Tuesday. Herbert Schauer, owner of the Munich-based auction house Zisska & Schauer, was placed in handcuffs on August 2, after the Naples court issued a European warrant for his arrest. Schauer is accused of receiving roughly 600 of the estimated 1,500 purloined volumes and manuscripts. Naples prosecutors believe Schauer took part in the planning, organization and execution of a "targeted programme aimed at the dismemberment, mutilation, systematic damage and illegal exploitation of the book patrimony" held in the Girolamini llibrary. The prosecutors claim Schauer put the booty up for auction in May 2012, and did everything in his power to elude investigators. The theft of the precious antique books from 2011 until 2012 is an "irreparable wound to the city of Naples, its image and culture, which deals a fatal blow to one of its extraordinary centres of excellence," according to the motivations of Judge Egle Pilla's sentence released last month. In March, Pilla convicted six people, including the ex-director of the library Marino Massimo De Caro, over the theft of the books. De Caro was sentenced to seven years in prison and banned from ever holding public office again. Marcello dell'Utri, a mafia-linked former close aid of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi, was also involved in the probe. Dell'Utri, a noted bibliophile, is suspected of having taken possession of many of the stolen books. Investigations began in April 2012 after media reported the books were missing, then under the direction of De Caro, a former advisor to the culture ministry. The probe revealed the existence of an organized ring dedicated to the systematic depletion of the manuscripts of the library founded in 1586 and known particularly for its vast collection of writings on philosophy and theology.
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