Tax Agents Raid Fabergé Museum

The museum's owner says the investigation is politically motivated.

British investigators have raided the Fabergé museum in Baden-Baden, Germany, at the behest of UK’s HM Revenues and Customs department. The department claims that the museum has failed to pay nearly £70,000 in Value Added Tax (VAT) on artifacts purchased over the past 15 years at major auction houses in London, Art Daily reports.

The owner of the museum, Alexander Ivanov, has responded by accusing British officials of staging the intervention to stop President Putin from presenting a £9 million Fabergé egg—which Ivanov had bought at Christie’s in 2007—to the State Hermitage Museum, as part of the museum’s 250th anniversary celebrations. The Moscow-based art collector, told the Times that there was a “certain connection” between the raid and the gift.

According to reports, on December 1st, around 40 British law-enforcement officers entered the Faberge Museum in Baden-Baden, as well as the private home and vehicle of the Fabergé Museum’s director, Sergei Avtonoshkin. The raids were carried out with support from Germany’s Financial Investigation and Customs Department. The museum denies the charges and declared nothing incriminating was found during the operation.

A representative from the HM Revenues and Customs Law Enforcement department declined to comment on the allegations, raid, or current state of the investigation when contacted by artnet News, citing the ongoing case.

Stopped by Custom Agents

The charges originated in February 2012, when Avtonoshkin missed a flight to Moscow departing from London, where he had purchased a series of items at Christie’s and Bonhams, that were meant to be displayed at the Moscow branch of the Fabergé Museum. When he tried to buy a ticket for another flight, Heathrow’s custom agents stopped him for questioning. Agents seized nearly 60 items and grew suspicious that the museum might have other items that had violated VAT regulation.

“This case dates to early 2012 and began with a misunderstanding at Heathrow Airport when I was leaving the UK to Moscow with some recently purchased art items,” Avtonoshkin told Art Daily. “A year ago we successfully refuted the allegations against the museum, and so this current raid comes as a huge surprise. No crime was committed, and amid the current anti-Russia hysteria in the UK now, I have the impression that officials want to use this case to make a political statement.”


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