Russian Security Officers Jailed for Stealing Gutenberg Bible and Trying to Sell It for $1.15M

MOSCOW—Sergei Vedishchev, a colonel in Russia’s FSB security service, along with the help of two other FSB officers, stole a 15th century Johannes Gutenberg two-volume bible from a safe at Moscow University and tried to sell it for $1.15 million (40 million roubles). The bible was actually worth $20.4 million (15 million euros) or more, Reuters reported.

Vedishchev, who was responsible for the security of the bible at the university, will serve 3-1/2 years in a penal colony, and the two other FSB officers will serve lesser terms.

The bible was significantly damaged when the officers cut out a page for the buyer to check its authenticity and will need to be repaired.

“These people were not art specialists,” spokeswoman Irina Zhirnova told Reuters. “It just happened that one of them got access to this rare book and then they set about thinking about how to cash in.”

The officers had good prior service records, which the court had taken into account, Reuters reported.

Russian daily newspaper Kommersant reported that the volumes were brought to Russia by Soviet troops who took them from Leipzig, Germany, at the end of World War II.