Arnout Verstrate started working with yacht broker Olaf Wegener in October 2004. He was to mediate in the sale of Verstrate’s Kent motor yacht. Eight months later, in early June 2005, Wegener asked Arnout Verstrate if he did not want to convert the brokerage agreement into a purchase agreement, in other words: broker Wegener wanted to buy the yacht from Verstrate. Verstrate agreed. The contract stipulated that the purchase price would be paid to Arnout Verstrate within two months and the two further agreed that the boat only became the property of the broker when the money (€ 104,000) was in Verstrate’s account.
Mr Hommersom: “In August, Arnout Verstrate contacted Olaf Wegener to find out where his money was, but Wegener replied that he was unable to pay. The bank had in fact seized the money. Verstrate did not suspect anything until he heard that the broker had sold the boat on in the meantime, contrary to what had been agreed. The buyers had indeed paid the purchase price, but the broker’s bank refused to transfer the money to Verstrate because they too had a claim against Wegener. So Arnout Verstrate was left empty-handed: boat gone, money gone.
I went to investigate and contacted the buyers of the boat. They told me that they had fallen in love with the Kent in the port of sale. After some negotiating they had bought the boat from Olaf Wegener. According to the buyers, they had even expressly inquired whether the money had gone to Arnout Verstrate, which the broker had confirmed. It turned out that Olaf Wegener had gotten into such trouble due to economic adventures abroad that he had started plugging one hole with another. This, of course, went wrong, causing Arnout Verstrate, among others, to suffer.
I seized Wegener as quickly as possible and summoned him. But it soon became clear that you cannot pluck a bald head. So, although Verstrate was in the right, he could whistle for his money for the time being. A closer reconstruction shows that Olaf Wegener most likely had concrete prospects of selling the ship when he proposed to Arnout Verstrate that he buy it. It had probably been his intention da sell his obligations to Verstrate, which failed miserably.
What is the state of affairs now? I investigated whether the buyers were in good faith. Every buyer can be expected to inform himself in advance about who owns the ship. Also, the buyers had not questioned the fact that on the first visit Wegener presented itself as an intermediary and on the second visit, and when entering into the purchase agreement, acted as the owner. To establish the facts, a so-called preliminary examination of witnesses will have to take place.
Although there is now a judgment on Olaf Wegener, Arnout Verstrate has nothing to gain from it. Moreover, he has to share with other garnishee parties and he would only be able to recover €6,000 of his claim of approximately €120,000 (the sale price of €104,000 plus additional costs) at this moment. I have also appealed to Arnout Verstrate’s insurer. This is because the policy conditions provide for coverage in case of damage due to embezzlement. This is now the track on which Arnout Verstrate has pinned his hopes. For the time being the insurer is dismissive, but Verstrate will not leave it at that. To be continued!”
Tip: Always make clear agreements in any mediation. Make sure that the agreement unambiguously states that you are the one who as the owner sells the boat and above all do not let the broker enter into the agreement as an intermediary on your behalf. In this way you keep control over the transaction up to and including the last signature. Also make sure that the intermediary uses a so-called third party account so that surprises as outlined above will not occur.
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