Skip to Content

Colonial Cases

Briber and Beyfuss, 1879

[bankruptcy, criminal]

Briber and Beyfuss

German Consular Court, Shanghai
2 August 1879
Source: The North China Herald, 5 August 1879



Shanghai, 2nd August

Before R. VON KRENCKI, Esq., Vice-Consul, and Messrs. P. G. HUBBE and H. BOGER, Associates.

The charges against Messrs. JULIUS BRIBER and CARL BEYFUSS.

   It will be remembered that on the 23rd June last, Messrs. Julius Bryber and Carl Beyfuss, who composed the firm of Bryber and Beyfuss, merchants and commission agents, at 14, Kiukiang road, were arrested on charges arising out of their bankruptcy, and have, in the meantime, been confined in the United States Consular Gaol, owing to the fact that the German authorities have no gaol accommodation of their own.

   Preliminary examinations have been held at the German Consulate, and today was fixed for their public trial.

   Two charges were preferred against them.  The first was that which is termed "simple bankruptcy," or keeping books of their business in such an incomplete and disorderly way as not to give a proper view of their financial position.  The second charge was one of fraud arising out of a transaction in cotton.

   It was alleged that prisoners bought 162 bales of waste cotton from a Chinaman at Tls. 1.25 per picul, and that they made out an invoice for the same cotton describing it as good cotton and charging Tls. 11.25 per picul, and on this they drew 80 per cent of the total value.

   In support of the first charge, Lino J. de Sa, a Portuguese, who kept the books for the first year after the firm started business in 1876; T. Place, another Portuguese, who succeeded Sa, and Louis Bryber, who had latterly axed as book-keeper, gave evidence to the effect that the books were not written up regularly owing to the pressure of other work.  Messrs. F. Borchardt and H. Snethlage, who had been engaged on the prisoners' books for the last three weeks, gave evidence as experts.  They said to a certain extent they had been able to make out a balance sheet showing the position of the prisoners' affairs, but it was not a satisfactory one.  It was impossible to arrive at a satisfactory balance, owing to the disordered state of the books. 

   Prisoners pleaded that they had kept all the books required of them by law, and asserted that they had been kept in such a way that if a fortnight were allowed them they would be able, from their books, to give a proper statement of their affairs.  There was no fraudulent intention on their part in not keeping their books in proper order.

   The Court then adjourned.

   On resuming in the afternoon, the second charge was proceeded with.

   The prisoner BRYBER said he had no personal knowledge of the transaction; that Beyfuss told him he would make out an invoice for the cotton at the London marker rate, but he did not say how much that was.

   BEYFUSS explained that he purchased the  waste cotton, or as it was described in the books "old cotton," at a very low rate, that similar shipments of the  same kind of cotton had formerly been made at 5 ½ d. per lib., whereas his invoice charge was only equal to about 4d. per lb.

   This cotton, it seems, was consigned to a Mr. Mowat in London, who accepted the draft, without receiving any sample.

   BEYFUSS declared that the sample was sent by the same mail as the invoice, and Mr. Baconnier, a former clerk in the firm, deposed that he did not remember this particukar trabnsaction, but while he was in the prisoners' service samples were geberally sent eitrher as parcels or kletters.

   The Chinaman who acted as compradore for the prisoners proved that the cotton bought by Mr. Beyfuss was ordinary waste cotton, and that he paid about the market price for it.  After the cotton was bought it was cleaned and repacked at the expense of the seller.  During the last three years the highest price this kind of cotton had realised was Tls. 1.60 per picul, and its present price was Tls. 1.35 and Tls. 1.40 per picul.  H e generally took samples of all goods bought, and kept half for a guide in future transactions and the other half he prepared to be sent away.  In this instance he gave a sample to one of the prisoners to be sentry away.  Whether it was sent or not he could not say.

   The evidence of this witness was corroborated by the native seller of the cotton, and also by the broker in the transaction.

   This concluded the evidence.

   The VICE-CONSUL and the ASSESSORS adjourned to consider their decision, and were absent from the Court over an hour, returning a few minutes past five o'clock.

   The VICE-CONSUL announced that on the first charge they found the prisoners guilty, they having themselves admitted that the state of their books was not in accordance with the law, and for this offence they were sentenced to six months' imprisonment.  As to the second charge, the or sobers were found guilty of suppressing and altering two facts, and causing an error - the German definition of fraud - by writing the words on the invoice "costing Tls. 11."  For this offence they were sentenced to twelve months' imprisonment.

   Two sentences being given at the same time, can, according to German law, be reduced, and it was reduced.  The eighteen months, by this rule, would be reduced to thirteen months, and that the month the prisoners had already spent in gaol would also be deducted, so that they now have twelve months to serve in gaol.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School