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Feds nab man allegedly trying to sell Adolf Hitler’s stolen gold bookmark

Post by Stacey Mulick / The News Tribune on Nov. 26, 2008 at 11:26 am with No Comments »
November 26, 2008 11:26 am

This is a pretty interesting tale.

Here’s the press release from the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Western Washington

SEATTLE – A Romanian national who attempted to sell an 18-carat gold bookmark that reportedly belonged to Adolf Hitler, will make his initial appearance in federal court at 1:30 this afternoon charged with Sale or Receipt of Stolen Goods.

Christian Popescu, 37, of Kenmore, Wash., was arrested by agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) outside a Bellevue, Wash., Starbucks Coffee yesterday, after setting up a clandestine meeting to negotiate the sale of the stolen bookmark, which allegedly had been given to Hitler as a gift by his longtime mistress, Eva Braun, in 1943.

Considered an historical artifact, the bookmark was set to be auctioned in October 2002, by a Madrid, Spain, auction house, when it was stolen by three eastern European thieves, along with several pieces of jewelry. The bookmark is believed to have previously belonged to the family of Wilhelm Keitel, an armed forces chief under Hitler, who was executed following the Nuremberg trials.

While most of the other items stolen in the robbery have been recovered, this is the first time in six years that the bookmark has surfaced. During his attempt to sell the bookmark, Popescu acknowledged that the bookmark was stolen in Spain and agreed to sell it for $100,000.

It is believed Braun gave Hitler the bookmark as consolation for his army’s defeat in the battle of Stalingrad, as it is inscribed in part with the following words from Braun: "My Adolf, don’t worry…(the defeat)… was only an inconvenience that will not break your certainty of victory."

"Artifacts of historical significance are not souvenirs for illegal sale to the highest bidder," said Leigh Winchell, special agent in charge for ICE’s office of investigations in Seattle. "As always, ICE along with our domestic and international law enforcement partners will continue its aggressive enforcement of this type of criminal activity. This case highlights the diversity of laws enforced by ICE."

This summer, an ICE agent learned that someone was interested in selling a gold bookmark that allegedly had once belonged to Hitler, according to the complaint filed in connection with the case. Sale or Receipt of Stolen Goods is punishable by up to ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The charges contained in the complaint are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

ICE was joined in this investigation by the Spanish National Police, INTERPOL, Seattle Police Department, the Port of Seattle Police Department, the Bellevue Police Department and the ICE attaché in Madrid. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas Woods and Richard Cohen.

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