Dutch frustration over sale of stolen heritage
8 September 2004 , AMSTERDAM — Historic Dutch shares and obligations from the Dutch East Indies Company stolen from the Amsterdam Council in the 1980s will be publicly auctioned in Germany next month.
8 September 2004
AMSTERDAM — Historic Dutch shares and obligations from the Dutch East Indies Company stolen from the Amsterdam Council in the 1980s will be publicly auctioned in Germany next month.
But Dutch justice authorities cannot take any action because the crimes have exceeded the statute of limitations.
The chief of the council's archive and collections administration, Bas de Melker, said it is frustrating that the documents will be publicly sold. "Everyone knows that these documents belong here. The items illegally disappeared from our possession," he said.
The papers include an options contract dating back to 1720 from the Commerce and Insurance Company of Stad Hoorn, believed to be the oldest stock option contract in Dutch history. It has a starting price of EUR 2,200, the most expensive item up for auction.
The current owner of the 17th and 18th century documents — which originated from the Dutch East Indies Company and the Moscow Trade Company, which did business with Russia — is an antique dealer from Krefeld in Germany.
He admits the documents were once in the Amsterdam Council's archives and said he bought them at the start of the 1990s from another dealer.
The man revealed to Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant the full extent of the thefts, which were committed in the 1980s until 1994: "Suitcases of Dutch cultural heritage came simultaneously onto the German market".
The German offered on Monday to remove the documents from the auction — scheduled to be held by the Historisches Wertpapierhaus auction house in Wurzburg in southern Germany on 2 and 3 October — if Amsterdam is prepared to compensate him for his initial investment.
A council spokesman said it will not pay the price demanded by the seller, asserting that the council did not want to start "sponsoring theft", Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reported. Despite this, the council is prepared to negotiate.
But the Krefeld man labelled a figure Amsterdam was prepared to pay for a document as being completely unacceptable.
The same applies to the EUR 50,000 that Amsterdam is reportedly prepared to pay for "the oldest share in the world" — a receipt from the Dutch East Indies Company dating back to September 1606.
This document also disappeared from the archive and has been in the hands of a group of German investors since 1999.
A contact person for the investors did not rule out the possibility that the document would be auctioned in the near future in the US, where it could be sold for a "dizzying" figure, possibly in the millions of dollars.
Security at the Amsterdam archive was tightened in 1999 when the thefts came to light.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch + German news