B-113727 April 6, 1953
B-113727: Apr 6, 1953
Secretary Reference is made to letter of January 6. The shipment is question was prepaid by Smithsonian Institution to Botterdam. The original steamship bill of lading was forwarded to beimann. The truck and the unaffected cargo were released on January 19. The books and pamphlets were not released to Reimann. Stok & Kersken or the Czechoslovakian Government but were returned to the Smithsonian Institutuion. For the amount of the present claim was presented to the Smithsonian Institution by Reimann. 47.75 is asserted for costs incurred in connection with accepting and unloading the shipment as Botterdam aand as transportation charges from that point to Preha. 128.05 represents expenses and damages alleged to have resulted from the detention of the truck by the United States Military Police.
B-113727 April 6, 1953
The Honorable The Secretary of State
My dear Mr. Secretary
Reference is made to letter of January 6, 1953 (IAD:CNN 102.21/12-2352) with enclosures, from the Military Liaison Branch, Division of Acquisition and Distribution, Department of State, relative to a claim of Reimann, Stok & Kerskonn, Rotterdam, Netherlands, for Dfl. 3,275,80, based on circumstances indicated hereinafter.
Pursuant to the Brussels Convention of March 15, 1886, to which the Czechoslovakian Government become a party on July 7, 1919, the Smithsonian Institution shipped certain Government books and pamphlets, on December 13, 1950, consigned to the National and University Library, Praha, Czechoslovakian. It appears that under the terms of paragraph VI of the said Convention the Czechoslovakian Government assumed responsibility for the cost of such shipments from Botterdam, Netherlands, to destination and that by letter of June 6, 1946, the Bureau of International Exchanges of Czechoslovakian instructed the Smithsonian Institution to make such shipments to Reimann, Stok & Kersken. The shipment is question was prepaid by Smithsonian Institution to Botterdam, Netherlands, and the original steamship bill of lading was forwarded to beimann, Stok & Kereken,who accepted the shipment at Betterdam and forwarded the same by truck. On January 15, 1951, when the truck attempted to cross the German- Czechoslovakian. border at Beidhaus, Germany, the United States Military Police detained the truck and carge, as well as the driver and helper. The Department of the Army has reported that the driver, the helper, the truck and the unaffected cargo were released on January 19, 1951. However, while it has been reported that the shipment contained no classified material, the books and pamphlets were not released to Reimann, Stok & Kersken or the Czechoslovakian Government but were returned to the Smithsonian Institutuion.
An invoice dated February 22, 1951, for the amount of the present claim was presented to the Smithsonian Institution by Reimann, Stok & Kersken. Part of the claim in the amount of Df1, 47.75 is asserted for costs incurred in connection with accepting and unloading the shipment as Botterdam aand as transportation charges from that point to Preha, Czechoslovakian. The balanace in the amount of Bf1, 3,128.05 represents expenses and damages alleged to have resulted from the detention of the truck by the United States Military Police. In this connection it appears that the amount claimed is excessive in that the principal item thereof is based on detention of the truck for 19 days whereas, as indicated hereinafter, the Department of the Army has reported release of the truck, unaffected cargo, driver and helper four days after the detention was made. Also, the item for Df1, 250 as "Our charges to release the truck" is not explained, and no evidence to establish the correctness of any of the items of the charges has been furnished to this office.
Under the arrangements for shipment as indicated hereinabove, it appears obvious that Reimann, Stok & Kersken was acting as agent of the Czechoslovakian Government. Records furnished to this Office by the Office of the Judge Advocate General, Department of the Army, show that the Department made an investigation of the fasts and circumstances involved and that on the basis thereof determined that the action of the United States Military Police was improper. Furthermore, the Department of the Army disapproved the claim on the basis that it is not cognizable under the set of January 2, 1942, 55 Stat. 880, as amended by the act of April 22, 1943, 57 Stat. 66, commonly referred to as the "Foreign Claims Act" and that there is no other law under which the claim could be considered by that Department.
Reciting the facts substantially as indicated hereinabove, the Military Liaison Branch, concludes the letter of January 6, 1953, as follows:
"Now the Netherlands Embassy, perhaps a bit confused as to which agency of the United States Government should be looked to far justice, is inquiring whether this Government is prepared to reimburse the Netherlands firm for the amount of damage it sustained through no fault of its own.
"The foregoing circumstances indicate the present impasse regarding the settlement of the claim, and it is hoped that your Office will determine how or which agency of the Government should pay the claim."
The Secretaries of the Army and Navy have exclusive jurisdiction within their respective departments to settle meritorious claims up to $5,000 arising in connection with the activities of such departments in foreign countries. This Office is not authorized to review the section of the Secretary of the Army in determining that the present claim is not within the ambit of the foreign Claims Act. Furthermore, this Office knows of no appropriation other than that specified in the Foreign Claims Act which may be available for payment of the claim. Accordingly, the present record affords no basis for this Office to authorize payment of the amount or any part thereof claimed by Reimann, Stok & Kersken.
Lindsay C. Warren Comptroller General of the United States