Czech musicians have had to return old Italian stringed
instruments belonging to the Czech state to the vaults of the
National Museum in Prague because of fears they could be impounded
abroad. Among those affected are violinist Jan Talich and cellist
Petr Prause of the Talich Quartet, who had to hand in their
Stradivari violin and Grancino cello, although they will still be
allowed to perform on the instruments in concerts within the Czech
The move to recall the instruments and other valuable items of cultural heritage that are out on loan comes after developments in a long-running arbitration battle between the government and Diag Human, a blood plasma company. Courts in Vienna and Paris recently recognised a 2008 Czech arbitration court ruling that the government owed Diag Human $500m as compensation for claiming in 1992 that the company was suspected of illegal activities, resulting in it losing a government contract. In an attempt to enforce the claim, Austrian authorities seized two Czech paintings, together worth an estimated $877,000, from Vienna's Belvedere Gallery.
The Czech government, which refused to recognise the original 2008 ruling, is appealing the Vienna and Paris court rulings, but has moved swiftly to ensure that other valuable artworks and cultural assets cannot be used as collateral to force it to pay up.