A Guarneri violin owned by renowned violinist Yuzuko Horigome has been seized by the customs office at Frankfurt Airport, apparently because it believes she should pay import tax on the valuable instrument, airport and other sources said.
According to a press official at the airport in Germany and other sources, Horigome arrived from Tokyo last Thursday and tried to pass through a customs gate for tourists who have nothing to declare, as she usually does.
However, a customs official told her the violin, which was inside her bag, should be declared.
Horigome did not have a certificate proving she had paid import tax or documents verifying the history of her violin, so the instrument was confiscated.
The press official said the violin was taken to ensure Belgium-based Horigome paid the tax. The official also said it was seized as evidence since there was the possibility of tax evasion.
The office is still processing the case.
Horigome was reportedly asked to pay 190,000 euros (about 19 million yen) in tax, 19 percent of the 1 million euros the office valued her violin at.
According to the press official, it is possible the violin will be regarded as a tool of her livelihood and therefore no tax will have to be paid.
In 1980, Horigome became the first Japanese to win the Queen Elisabeth Music Competition held at Brussels. She has played with some of the world's leading orchestras.
'No problems before'
Horigome was stunned when her violin was seized, especially since she has never had a problem taking it through customs before.
"A musical instrument is a tool for my job and like a part of my body as a musician. I've used Frankfurt Airport many times and never had any trouble before," Horigome told The Yomiuri Shimbun by telephone. "I don't understand why this suddenly happened."
Horigome said she is considering filing a suit against the customs office.
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