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Colonial Cases

The Anhalt, 1909


The Anhalt

Consular Court, Tsingtau
Source: The Times, 31 December 1909




The case of the attachment laid by a German Court upon the assets of the Russian Government lying here at the bank of Messrs. Mendelssohn and Co. occupied much space in the Press, though the German Government is, naturally, anxious that no undue attention should be called to it.  An inspired writer stated last night that the affair was one "merely of a private case between the Russian Government and a German subject, in which the diplomacy of the two countries had hitherto not taken and, so far as could be seen, would not take any part."

The history of the case is briefly as follows: - Captain von Hellfeld, during the Russo-Japanese war, was delivering to the Russian Government guns, ammunition, and stores.  On March 18, 1906, the Russian Government demanded the handing over to them of the steamship Anhalt with a cargo of munitions of war intended for them, which, as the result of a dispute, had been lying at Tsingtau harbour since December 3, 1905, together with the payment of a certain amount of indemnification.  Captain von Hellfeld thereupon presented a counterclaim to the Russian Government for the payment of a sum of over £150,000 for goods delivered.  Judgment was given by the Tsingtau Court against the Russian Government, which appealed on grounds of international law to the Consular Court at Shanghai.  The case was sent back to the Court at Tsingtao and was again decided in favour of Captain von Hellfeld, who successfully fought yet another appeal.

On September 23., 1909, when the proceedings were about to be concluded, the Russian Vice-Consul at Chifu made a written statement to the effect that the Russian Government had at all stages of the proceedings protested against the admissibility of Captain von Hellfeld's counterclaim, on that ground that in international law a sovereign State is not subject to the legal jurisdiction of another State unless it has expressly declared its consent thereto, and, as plenipotentiary of the Russian Government, he declared its intention of regarding as null and void any decision with regard to the counterclaim which might be given by German Courts.  The Court, however, found for Captain von Hellfeld on the counterclaim, and, after formal delays, a writ of attachment was issued here on December 16.  The period of notice to the bankers expired to-day.  The solicitor of the Russian State, M. von Dymnowsky, has been here for the last few days.

It is announced to-night that, "as in similar previous cases, "the German Foreign Office has laid the question of competence before "the appropriate Court."  It is added that the Russian Government has announced its readiness to let the claims of Captain von Hellfeld be settled by arbitration.  "The appropriate Court" is understood to mean the Prussian Court for the settlement of disputes about competence, which consists of ten members. As regards previous cases of this kind, the chief, if not the only, precedent is the case in which, nearly 30 years ago, at the instance of a Berlin firm, an attachment was laid upon the bank deposit in Berlin of the Rumanian Government.

Source: The Times, 27 June 1910




The Prussian Court, for the settlement of disputes about competence gave judgment yesterday in the matter of the attachment laid last December by a German Court upon assets of the Russian Government lying here at the bank of Messrs. Mendelssohn and Co.  The Court finds that the attachment was inadmissible in international law, and that the writ of attachment must be quashed.

The history of the case will be found in The Times of December 31 and January 3 last, and need not be repeated.  The writ of attachment constituted an attempt on the part of the German Court to give effect to the verdict of the Consular Court at Tsingtau.  Yesterday's decision constitutes recognition of the incompetence of the German Court to deal with deposits belonging to a foreign Government.  This decision is in accordance with the view and wishes of the German Foreign Office, which initiated the proceedings before the Court of competence.  It seems that the Foreign Office is now ready to request the Russian Government to satisfy the claim of Captain von Hellfeld.


The favourable verdict of the German Court in the Hellfeld case highly gratifies the Russian Press, especially the Novioe Vremya, which was chiefly instrumental in opposing a compromise with Captain von Hellfeld.

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