MOSCOW, April 17 (RAPSI, Nikita Shiryayev) – Two defendants in a criminal case over stealing rare and antique books from Moscow libraries, Alexander Pepelyayev and Vyacheslav Gutkevich, pleaded guilty on Tuesday, RAPSI reported from the Tverskoy District Court.

However, Gutkevich asked the court to change charges against him from embezzlement of historical and cultural values to theft.

Anatoly Borovkov, who is believed to be an organizer of the criminal group, pleaded not guilty.

On Tuesday, the court began reconsidering the case following the Moscow City Court’s order.

In May 2016, Pepelyayev, Gutkevich and Borovkov were found guilty of stealing antique books of historical, scientific, artistic and cultural value. They received prison terms ranging from 5.5 to 7 years. The court also ordered them to pay for damage caused. Later, an appeal court excluded reference to conviction of Borovkov and Gutkevich from the sentence and released the latter because of serving the term.

In February 2018, the Moscow City Court’s Presidium overturned previous rulings and ordered a retrial.

Investigators claimed that the defendants stole antique books of historical, scientific, artistic and cultural value and sold them at auctions, through resale shops, secondhand bookshop and art centers, as well as to collectors from March 2001 to June 2008. According to investigators, Borovkov coordinated actions of other defendants and distributed money received from selling the stolen books. In total, they stole 10 rare books valued at more than 7.3 million rubles (about $120,000).