German Customs Officials Seize Million Dollar Violin, Demand Nearly 20 Percent of Value as Import Duty

The passenger had a connecting flight in Frankfurt and was headed from Brussels to Tokyo. Government proving it really is just legalized theft

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World-renowned violinist Yuzuko Horigome said her ¥100 million Guarnerius violin was seized by German customs officials at Frankfurt Airport, and they are demanding she pay an import duty of ?190,000 (more than ¥18.6 million), 19 percent of the violin's estimated market price, to get it back.

According to Horigome, the violin was confiscated when she was transferring at the airport on Aug. 16 while on her way home to Brussels from Tokyo. The officials told her that she was not carrying a paper certifying that the instrument is her business tool and other documents necessary for bringing high-priced goods into the country.