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Germans triple the ransom for the Guarnerius they seized

Yuzuko Horigome has given her first interview to the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun about the precious instrument that was seized by Customs at Frankfurt airport last week while she was in transit from Tokyo to Brussels.

The Germans, she says, are now demanding 380,000 Euros before they will return her instrument, three times as much as originally suggested. Without it, she cannot give concerts. She has submitted all the required documents but the highway robbers of Frankfurt airport refuse to budge.

Here‘s the latest update.


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  1. José Bergher says:

    To call those crooks “highway robbers” is being too kind.

  2. Nandor Szederkenyi says:

    This is getting out of control!

    Guys, who are in favor of the German customs decision, please read the original article again, and also the latest one. Also, read more carefully all the opinions of us in favor Ms. Horigome (original blog) because you misunderstand something completely.

    This whole story is really scary, and I think we (violinists etc.) should do something about it. We must find a solution at least for the future traveling to save us from such horror to happen.
    I’ll certainly try to get some proof for my violin before my next Japan tour in January!

    My very best good luck to Ms. Horigome!!!

  3. My wife and I are American musicians who have lived in Germany for over 30 years. We fly in and out of the country constantly and have never once had to prove ownership of our instruments. If they are going to require this, they should be consistent. Even more absurd is that Shimbun was merely in transit through Germany. Something is suspicious here.

    • I agree with you William! I have never had to prove ownership. My husband is an accomplished Jazz musician and he HAS never had to prove ownership- He is German BUT He would find this situation equally appalling!
      This is utter and complete MADNESS! Shame on German officials!

    • another orchestra musician says:

      Yes, apparently very similar indeed. A key factor in the Swiss case, the NZZ article indicates, is that the violinist resides in Switzerland – thereby making the violin, albeit factually property of the National Bank of Austria and merely on loan to the violinist, subject to import duty. Were she transiting through Switzerland, or were she in Switzerland only temporarily, to perform using the violin as her professional tool, she would not have to pay import duty.

  4. Norman, this story brings back all the unpleasant memories of traveling with my guitar and the tribulations of trying to deal with the airlines. But it seems things have gotten a lot worse. I have never had any “documentation” for my 29-year-old concert guitar but customs never gave me any problems in the past. Now I would not even want to risk traveling to Germany.

    I put up a post in my blog talking about how this just brings out the libertarian in me!

  5. Tobias Seyb says:

    Ah, a little german-bashing.

    But how come nobody mentioned Hitler yet?

    Seriously, the case here has nothing to do with germans, only with customs and obviously with a mistake. I suspect the violinist made some mistakes. Germany is no banana republic, and there are crowds of musicians passing each year.
    And narrow-minded officials are everywhere.

  6. José Bergher says:

    Soon those highway robbers will confiscate gold teeth and pacemakers until the traveler can show dental and medical receipts proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that the gold teeth and pacemakers have resided in his or her mouth and/or body for at least 85 years.

  7. Nelson Armitano says:

    I only hope that a strong and exemplary law suit will follow, one that will create jurisprudence in this area. This is totally unacceptable and outrageous!

  8. wann man als EU ansässiger eine antike Geige aus den nicht EU Raum kauft, ist bei Ersteinführung Einführumsatzsteuer zu Bezahlen (10%).
    Einfach durch die grüne Tor 15 Jahre lang zu gehen ist Schmuggel und Steuerhinterziehung und wird hier völlig zu Recht bestrafft.

    • Sorry, wrong language:
      If an EU resident imports an antique violin from outside of the EU, they have to pay input VAT when bringing the instrument into the EU.
      Simply going through the “nothing to declare” lane, 15 years long, is smuggling and tax evasion, and appears to have been entirely correctly punished here.

  9. At first the european union is also custom-union! You get allways in contact with the customs on the first international Airport in Europe and not on the final destination, it doesn`t care in wich county of the EU you life.
    Please before everybody is hammering with prejudices take your knowledge from the laws of tax and duty regulation as well, and not only the tabloids!

    First here:

    When you are a a member of the european union and you planing to fly out with a good of high value, go to your inland custom office, or on the Airport and fill out the follow paper with them and show the officer your goods. Show the customs the paper when you arrive back in the EU….nothing of problem.

    So far i know Ms. Horicome became a citizen of Belgium after she bought her Violin. In this case there is no charge of Tax anytime if she use it for her profession.

    But!!!!!!! She missed one but an very important document she has to fill out for her Violin when she moved in with all her relocation goods.

    Only official documents are legally valid evidence!!!!!!!!

    Tourists and Vistors are non concerned about this.

    I hope the customs accept her documents she have to show and get back her violin with paying anything.
    Good luck!

    • Sorry the first document has the wrong link, same as the second.
      Google for “Nähmlichkeitsbescheinigung” customs form number: 0330

  10. I have been checking out the subject, by coincidence, for a colleague who will be going to Germany to play (rock band). Intra EU is no problem but Switzerland can be.
    By EU law coming and going to the EU with portable musical instruments for own professional or pleasure use is no problem. Customs recommend making out a declaration for the instrument and getting it stamped in customs at departure. Keep it and use it on return. Law should be the same in 90 % of the world too.
    See here article 20

    Also article 37
    37.Standard Returning residents shall be permitted to reimport free of import duties and taxes any articles which the took with them at the time of their departure from the country and which were in free circulation in that country.

    Her violin wasnt in free circulation as she had never declared it and paid the taxes or obtained clearnce as personal effects.

    Ms Horicome has made an error. When she bought the instrument , in the far east I believe, she should have declared it upon arrival in Europe, Either when she transferred to Buxelles , import of personal effects, or if she bought it after her transfer by formally importing into the EU and paying taxes. I believe also that the instrument could be subject to Arts control and licence. Another error she must have made when questioned by customs… She was in transit after all and most probably hand carrying. Customs have the right but no obligation to control transit passengers, unless they suspect something. Perhaps she was too eloquent
    with customs. Fra customs have a reputation for being kind gentle and cooperative, at times. ;(

    Lets hope she gets something sorted and can start playing again in tranquility. I am amazed though that someone could be so blind to possible problems with the tool they use to make their living….

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