Chinese authorities have impounded the world’s most expensive racing pigeon and 1,600 other Belgian birds after claiming that incorrect import duties had been paid on the €2.7m (£2.3m) feathered cargo.
One-year-old Bolt, named after Usain Bolt, was bought by a Chinese businessman in May for a record €310,000. Most birds are bought at auction in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany and shipped over to Asia. In July, a cargo of 401 Belgian pigeons was seized by customs officials, followed by another shipment of 1,212 birds last month. The authorities are claiming the value of the birds was incorrectly reported on import documents, and insufficient duties were paid.
While the Belgian auction house Pigeon Paradise succeeded in negotiating the freedom of the first batch of 401 birds, the Belgian foreign ministry is now trying to release the second lot.
“A number of these birds are world-class racing pigeons,” Joren Vandeweyer of the foreign ministry told the Flanders News website. “It’s up to the Chinese authorities to decide if they want to set the pigeons free again.”