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City hopes movie will help bring back stolen VOC document

‘Ocean’s Twelve’ based on fact

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

AMSTERDAM - Curators at the Municipal Archives hope that the movie ‘Ocean’s Twelve’ will help efforts to recover a stolen stock certificate from the 17th century VOC, the Dutch East Indies Company. The certificate is the oldest in the world and was stolen from the Archives in the 1980s.

The Hollywood film, which was shot partly on location this summer in Amsterdam, centres around the theft. The certificate now is in the hands of a German collector who has refused to return it to its rightful owners. Although publicity could elevate the price, current estimates about the document’s worth range only as high as $60,000.

The Archives want to use the film’s premiere to generate publicity about the actual theft and the way it happened. The collector claims he purchased the document legally in 1999 and now is offering the rare certificate for sale. The Archives lack the provenance to demand the return of the certificate, of which there are only two other copies in existence. One is owned by the Municipal Archives in the city of Leiden, the other is the property of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange.

The theft from the Amsterdam Municipal Archives never has been solved. Producers of the film likely based the idea for the screenplay on a brochure issued by Euronext, the parent company of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange. The brochure shows a photo of the certificate. The VOC was one of the first companies ever to issue shares, largely owned by merchants and municipalities in a few port cities in the western part of the Netherlands. The VOC, arguably the first multinational in the world, eventually ruled a company-owned empire which included the Dutch East Indies (modern Indonesia) and Surinam.

In the movie, a sequel to a remake ‘Ocean’s Eleven,’ a gang of thieves and con-artists perpetrate three major heists in Amsterdam, Rome and Paris. Dutch actor Jeroen Krabbé plays a minor role in the film, which also had scenes shot at the Haarlem railway station.