A DOZEN autographs of world leaders allegedly stolen from commemoration books in Serbia following the death of Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito have been put up for auction in Malaga this weekend, causing Serbia to seek help from Interpol to recover them.
The autographs alleged to have been stolen include then US vice president George H.W. Bush, the last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.
The autographs signed off posthumous tributes to Tito, who led socialist Yugoslavia from the end of World War Two until his death in 1980. They were written into commemoration books during official visits by the leaders to Yugoslavia in the years that followed.
Following a media report that the autographs had been stolen, Belgrade’s Museum of Yugoslav History launched an investigation and established that pages were missing from the tribute books that were on display in a mausoleum that is part of the museum’s complex.
‘We reported the case to police and they will inform Interpol… We are waiting for a response,’ museum official Ana Radic told the Spanish press.
‘The theft appears to have taken place before the museum took over the running of the mausoleum in 2015’, she explained.
‘We also contacted the auction house and asked them to cancel the auction and provide us with additional information on the documents so we can confirm their authenticity’ and recover them, Radic said.
The director of the British-based auction house ‘Autographs Auctions’, Richard Davie, told the Spanish press a colleague managing the sale ‘has been in touch with the relevant authorities and is complying with their requests for further information regarding the documents’.
‘In the rare event that the ownership of documents is brought into question then we are always willing to assist the relevant parties in further investigations and if necessary, withdraw documents from the auction until the rightful owner can be established,’ Davie told the Spanish press by email.
Among the other autographs that have gone missing are those of India’s first female prime minister Indira Gandhi, assassinated Swedish premier Olof Palme, Cambodia’s king Norodom Sihanouk, late Syrian president Hafez al-Assad and Romanian communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.