German customs demand $475,000 for Japanese Violinist Yuzuko Horigome’s Guarnerius violin

German customs seized a $1.2 million violin from a Japanese professional musician and are demanding she pay almost $475,000 to get it back. Belgium-based Yuzuko Horigome was transiting through Frankfurt Airport last week after performing in Japan. When she tried to walk through the green gate for travelers arriving in the EU with nothing to declare, customs officers stopped her and said she needed to pay 190,000 euros in duty on her 1741 Guarnerius violin. Guarnerius violins are considered among the world’s best, ranked alongside those made by Stradivarius and Amati.

On top of this were fines, taking the total cost to an eye-popping 380,000 euros ($475,000). Customs confiscated the valuable fiddle because she could not provide the documents for her 1986 purchase.. She has since submitted documents to prove her ownership of the violin, but negotiations have been difficult. Horigome, who has worked in Europe for three decades, was also contacting the governments of Japan and Belgium to see if they could help. A spokesman for the German authorities has suggested that the violin might be returned if it is regarded as necessary for her job.

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