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Åland gov’t reprimanded over shipwreck champagne sale

The discovery of a hoard of vintage champagne in a shipwreck off the Åland Islands back in 2010 brought worldwide attention and a bidding war—but now it may land the government of the autonomous province in legal trouble. The Deputy Chancellor of Justice says that the regional administration may even have broken the law governing Åland’s self-government.

Samppanjapullon kaula ja korkki.
Image: YLE

The Deputy Chancellor of Justice has now reprimanded the Åland regional government for recovering cargo from a shipwreck off the island of Föglö in 2010 before receiving permission from the National Board of Antiquities.

The Åland authorities did request permission, but proceeded to recover the treasure before an official permit arrived. The cargo was 200-year-old champagne, still in drinkable condition, and thought to be the oldest champagne in the world.

The Åland government then sold off some of the bottles for record prices at auction in 2011 and 2012 and pocketed the considerable proceeds.

That is problematic as the bottles were technically relics and needed an export license—which was provided by the same authorities that profited from the sale.

The Deputy Chancellor of Justice says that this dual role contravenes both national and European law on the export of cultural artefacts.

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