German Customs Seize $1.2 million violin

A Japanese professional musician had her Guarnerius violin seized because she could not provide documents for her 1986 purchase. Belgium-based Yuzuko Horigome was transiting through Frankfurt Airport last week after performing in Japan, the top-selling Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper said. German Customs said she would have to pay duties and fines to the total of $474,000.

"The instrument is a tool for my work. For musicians, instruments are like parts of your bodies," Horigome told the Yomiuri. "I have used Frankfurt Airport many times and never had problems like this before. I don't know why this happened."

Apparently, she was trying to pass through the nothing to declare line, as she usually does. She was told she needed to declare the instrument - and then, when she was unable to produce documents proving she'd paid import tax on the instrument, or detailing the violin's history, it was taken from her.

A spokesman for the German authorities has suggested that the violin might be returned if it is regarded as necessary for her job, the Yomiuri said.

Where are they getting the duty rate from?

At first, I reckoned the violin should be classified as 9202.10.00, which in the EU HTS is duty free. However in this case the violin is over 100 years old and should be classified as 9706.00.00, which is …also duty free. Am I missing something here? Where is the duty rate that they are charging her coming from?

Update: My bad. I was looking the wrong tariff. Apparently 9202.10.00 isn't the valid code in EU. The correct HS code is 9202.10.10 which does have a 3.2% import duty. Also, an additional VAT of 19% applies. I knew I had something wrong.


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