Minister of Interior Sándor Pintér returned one hundred and ten medieval map engravings, which were stolen from the library in Toulouse and subsequently found in Hungary, to France's Ambassador to Hungary Roland Galharague on Tuesday.

In his short speech prior to receiving the maps, which date from the 16th-18th century, Ambassador Galharague thanked the Ministry of Interior, the Hungarian police force and Europol, as well as complimenting the close cooperation between the police forces and law enforcement organisations of the two countries.

Photo: Gergely Botár

Sándor Pintér called the successful investigation a success for European law enforcement, because it was clearly this cooperation that had made it possible for him to return the works of art to their rightful owner. "I would like all criminals to know that this cooperation between countries exists and wherever they may commit a crime, they will be captured.", he stated.
According to information provided by the National Police Headquarters, after receiving information from the National Bureau of Investigation (NNI), officers from the Hungarian Tax and Customs Office (NAV) stopped a mobile home in the vicinity of Győr, western Hungary, on 6 May 2012. The papers of the occupants were checked and the vehicle was searched, as a result of which 110 map engravings were found, which looked original and had clearly been cut out of books. During the course of the subsequent investigation, a forensic document expert identified the stamp of Toulouse Library on the confiscated maps.

The NNI contacted several European countries via Interpol to find the source of the stolen works of art, as a result of which the French police identified the engravings as having been stolen from the library in Toulouse.
Parallel to this, Dutch partner organisations informed the Hungarian police that an unidentified man had attempted to cut maps out of books in the Dutch Royal Library, but was unsuccessful. The NNI identified the Slovak citizen who the Dutch authorities had been searching for and who had connections to the person who had transported the French maps to Hungary.

Photo: Gergely Botár

As a result of another procedure, on 15 May 2012, officers from the NAV pulled over a car, which was driven by a 66-year-old man, on the Hungarian-Austrian border at Hegyeshalom. Several old map engravings and antique books were discovered, all of which represented valuable cultural assets which would have required permission to be taken out of the country.
Based on the relationships between the two investigations, the French and Hungarian police unified the two cases and apprehended the suspects during a coordinated joint operation on 11 June 2012. The criminal proceedings were continued by the French and the four men who were apprehended in Hungary were handed over to the French authorities on 9 August 2013.