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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Art Theft Trial Begins

ST. PETERSBURG -- A controversial Russian lawyer charged with complicity in the theft of ancient Eastern manuscripts worth up to $250 million went on trial Monday in a city court here.

Dmitry Yakubovsky, once appointed by President Boris Yeltsin to look into government corruption, is charged with involvement in the theft of 89 manuscripts, ranging from 300 to 1,300 years old and valued at $1 million to $9 million each.

The trial was adjourned until May 13 soon after the opening, to allow Yakubovsky, who is being held in Kresty prison, to finish reading the 33 volumes of case files.

"We hope for acquittal," said Irina Perepyolkina, one of Yakubovsky's defense lawyers. She told reporters the prosecution's case lacked proper formalities and convincing evidence of Yakubovsky's guilt.

The manuscripts, which included works of Chinese, Mongolian, Tibetan and Near Eastern philosophy and poetry, disappeared from the Russian National Library in St. Petersburg in December 1994.

Several days later, police and security agents recovered them and detained three people, including Yakubovsky, on suspicion of complicity in the theft.