News

28.03.2010 - Important news for collectors of Belgian Postal History items!
The Court of Appeal in Liège (Belgium) has ruled that the Belgian National Archive did act illegally when it ordered the seizure of postal items belonging to a well-known collector. The seizure took

The Court of Appeal in Liège (Belgium) has ruled that the Belgian National Archive did act illegally when it ordered the seizure of postal items belonging to a well-known collector. The seizure took place during the National Belgian Stamp Exhibition in 2004. Now, almost six years later, the items that were confiscated will have to be returned to the exhibitor! In a document containing about twenty pages, the Court of Appeal chose a more subtle view than that of an earlier court. Although it agreed with the earlier court that archive documents are to be considered as state property and that any claim for their recovery should not meet any limitations, the Court of Appeal also wanted to establish whether any proof of origin had been provided with respect to each individual letter. The efforts of the Belgian state in this matter proved in vain. The Court concluded that the state had failed to prove that the letters in question came from public archives. In the absence of inventories and after hearing testimony from archivists, the Court came to the conclusion that, when private donations of letters are concerned, there is no way to establish exactly which letters have been donated and whether the entire collection of letters was donated, let alone whether certain letters had at some stage been stolen from public archives. Consequently, the Court argued, it would be impossible to determine whether a letter that may later be found in the hands of a private collector has ever been part of a collection donated to the Belgian state, a municipal archive or any other archive. The only letters that were NOT given back to the collector, were letters sent to the Catholic Church. The judge considered these covers as being PUBLIC by NATURE, because they were confiscated by Napoleon. So, private collectors can not possess them. This ruling comes as a great relief to Belgian marcophilatelists. Provided they have acted in good faith, and provided they do not own covers that are ‘public by nature’, they can now go back to exhibiting their collections at philatelic events or during trade fairs without having to worry about seizure orders. Moreover, thanks to the ruling of the Court of Appeal, collectors can now invest in their collections without the fear of possible civil claims for their recovery, hanging over them like a sword of Damocles. More information can be obtained from the Belgian Academy for Philately (info@maselis.be) or via Jan Van Camp (jvc@dvvc.be, ++<0>2/42.300.42 or ++<0>475/25.66.70) or Bart Coopman (bco@dvvc.be, ++<0>2/42.300.42 or ++<0>479/66.46.66).