In an offshoot of the massive Girolamini Library theft case, former Italian Senator Marcello Dell'Utri has been acquitted of the charges leveled against him. Dell'Utri was once a powerful politician in Italy. A founder of the Forza Italia party which brought Silvio Berlusconi to power as Prime Minister, Dell'Utri had enormous influence. Berlusconi, still active in Italian politics, was eventually convicted of tax fraud, Dell'Utri a more serious charge of cooperating with the Mafia. It netted him seven years in prison. His term ended in 2019.
However, throughout this time, Dell'Utri faced a second charge, this related to the Girolamini Library theft case. In that case, the former director of the library, Massimo De Caro, was convicted of stealing thousands of books from that library. No one is quite sure how De Caro got that job, he having no qualifications for it, but one can be confident he had some connections somewhere. De Caro stole around 4,000 old and valuable books, often coming in at night and walking out with them, which he sent all over the world. Their total value is unknown but likely is tens of millions of dollars. A good number of the books made it to a German auction house where they were to be sold to unsuspecting buyers. De Caro also received a seven-year prison sentence for his efforts.
That takes us to the recently dropped case against Mr. Dell'Utri. Dell'Utri is a bibliophile, and quite a serious one at that. His collection consists of 30,000-40,000 books. He is also a friend of Massimo De Caro, the two sharing a love of books and seven-year prison sentences. They have much in common. Over the course of his library directorship, De Caro gifted Dell'Utri with 14 books, highly collectible ones taken from the Girolamini Library. This is a pittance considering the size of Dell'Utri's library, but these are the 14 that got him in hot water. He was charged with complicity with De Caro's embezzlement of books. These 14 enabled prosecutors to seize Dell'Utri's entire library.
Prosecutors believed that many more books in Dell'Utri's library had questionable origins, but he was charged with receiving these 14 as they could be traced to De Caro's thefts. They asked for another sentence of seven years in prison for Dell'Utri, this evidently being a popular prison term in Italy. Dell'Utri maintained his innocence, saying he had no knowledge of the untoward origin of the books his friend gave him. Why would gifts of 14 antiquarian books from the director of an antiquarian library cause any suspicion by a trusting friend?
After years of investigations and charges, the court ruled in Dell'Utri's favor. Its judgment was rendered on the basis “the fact does not exist.” That is an odd way of saying it, a linguistic contradiction, or perhaps something is lost in the translation. Whatever, the court did not accept the claim that Dell'Utri participated in the theft or was even aware of what happened. He was a babe in the woods.
Although found innocent, Dell'Utri feels he has been seriously punished already for the allegations. La Repubblica quoted him as saying (in translation), “I am happy that the reasons of the defense have finally been heard. This sentence restores my bibliophile soul to a large extent, but unfortunately it cannot restore that physical integrity and psychological serenity that I have lacked in many years of judicial and media accusations. This investigation really made me suffer more than prison.” He continued, "I was ill for this thing. I had to put in three stents, because this has done me more damage than the same incarceration.” His lawyers added, “We are very satisfied because we were able to demonstrate that Dell'Utri had nothing to do with the appointment of De Caro as director. The former senator was not aware of the provenance of those books donated by De Caro."
Dell'Utri got his freedom and his books back.