You have 2 more free articles remaining

The defence counsel in the case made widely reported claims that corruption and the use of illicit sources by dealers was “rife”. But ABA president Jonathan Potter dismissed the claims as “unfounded”.

He added that the libraries who fell victim to Peter Bellwood’s £290,000 crime spree were lax in both their security and in their urgency to inform the trade of the missing maps.

Bellwood was sentenced to four and a half years in jail after admitting the offences. He made £70,000 by slicing copies of maps out of library atlases with a craft knife and selling them on to at least two dealers. He gave himself up in July after being placed on Scotland Yard’s “most wanted” list and seeing his photograph on a BBC Crimewatch broadcast.

It has been confirmed that David Bannister, the dealer from Cheltenham who paid more than £32,000 in cash for maps from Bellwood, was not a member of the ABA.

Mr Potter said: “The ABA, as well as other trade associations, has a clear code of conduct which includes due diligence. Any reputable dealer, as the vast majority of those in the trade are, would abide by these terms.”

The ABA code of good practice states that dealers should make efforts to ensure that material offered to them is indeed the property of the seller. It is common practice for members to vouch for the authenticity of what they are selling, and items sold that turn out to be suspect are returnable.

Mr Potter has also called for better liaison between the trade and libraries to prevent such crimes. “To stop thieves from passing on their stolen items, libraries must inform the trade immediately. In the case of maps and books, they also need to give precise details so they can be identified. Identification can be a problem because, by its nature, printed material is not unique.”

He added: “We need better communication with the libraries. At the ABA we are working with the library associations in the hope of establishing a better relationship.”