811.114 Belgium/258

The Belgian Embassy to the Department of State


Note Verbale

On receipt of the aide-mémoire which was sent to it on May 22 by the Under Secretary of State, with regard to the suppression of the contraband liquor trade, the King’s Embassy immediately telegraphed to Brussels.

[Page 420]

It desired to bring to the knowledge of the Belgian Government the data furnished by Mr. Phillips following the telegrams recently sent from Antwerp to the Department of State. The attention of the competent authorities has been especially drawn to the presumably fraudulent acts of the steamer Hillfern.

Mr. van Zeeland has just acknowledged receipt of the Belgian Embassy’s communication above mentioned and has instructed it, on this occasion, to remind the American Government that while Belgium is in position to withdraw their sailing papers from Belgian vessels engaged in smuggling, it is not in a position to take action regarding foreign vessels, by reason of the fact that the latter are subject to the jurisdiction of their own consular authorities. The cooperation of the country whose flag is flown by the vessel is therefore indispensable.

Nevertheless, for the purpose of cooperating in the restriction of possible abuses which might work prejudice to a country with which Belgium maintains especially friendly relations, the King’s Government has taken extremely severe police measures with respect to the Hillfern. It should be noted—as a confidential matter—that this vessel has even been arbitrarily held at Antwerp for two days. Moreover, the customs authorities have refused authorization for certain re-entries of liquor into Belgium as reimported liquor. It is the lack of cooperation encountered on the part of the consul of the nationality of the suspected vessel which has hindered action by the King’s Government. Cooperation of Belgian authorities in the case recently brought to their attention has been given up to the extreme limit of the powers under the legislation in force. However, as the measures taken have proved ineffective, the King’s Government is disposed to take up the study of a draft law authorizing the suppression of smuggling. For this purpose, it would like to know the powers of the American Government in similar cases.

The Embassy of Belgium would appreciate it if the Department of State would assist it in obtaining such documentation.