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Dealers at the Munich international coin fair have become the first citizens to be charged under the controversial new German cultural heritage law.

More than 30 law enforcement officials, including three members of the Munich art and antiques squad, raided the venerable Numismata fair on March 4-5 and made five arrests.

The Bayerisches Landeskriminalamt (BLKA) – the Bavarian state police authority – says it seized the entire stock of an Afghanistan-born Danish exhibitor who failed to produce documents to prove that approximately 6000 coins and about 1000 small antiquities with a value of over €50,000 had been legally imported into Germany.

Under the new due diligence guidelines, proof of at least 20 years of provenance is required before ‘cultural goods’ are sold.

An export licence from their country of origin must also be provided.

Outside the fair, held for the 48th time at the MOC Veranstaltungscenter, the police also detained a Bulgarian national and three Serbian nationals who were in possession of undocumented coins valued at around €1600. Police released the four men but say they too will face charges.

The BLKA says these were the first arrests made under the Kulturschutzgesetz, signed into law last August.

Export permit delays

The new law, designed to control the movement of ‘goods of cultural interest’ to and from Germany, is also impacting other aspects of the market.

Speaking to ATG on the condition of anonymity, German auctioneers say applications for export permits – required whenever ‘cultural goods’ are sold to a foreign buyer – can take several weeks rather than the 10 days originally promised.

They add that any ‘precautionar y ’ appl ications , recommended when a seller is uncertain if a work of art will be granted export permission in the event of a sale, can take even longer, whi le di f ferent approaches to similar works of art are encountered, depending on which regional authority is approached.

Before the law came into effect, auctioneers and dealers were vociferous in their opposition and were able to push through several amendments which made it into the final legislation.

For Stuttgart auction house Nagel that is not enough, however, at least as far as its Asian art sales are concerned.

Michael Trautmann, head of department, has followed through on his threat to move his sales – which are heavily dependent upon an overseas audience – out of Germany in the event of the Kulturschutzgesetz becoming law.

Nagel’s next Asian art sale will be held in Salzburg on June 16-17.

By Jonathan Franks