Former East German Army Officer declares property deeds are a novelty, “simply an unusual gift”
LANDSHUT, GERMANY / 21 JUNE / — German police have raided a novelty gift company that promises customers the stars, in the form of land certificates for the Moon and other heavenly bodies.
The offices of the company, Astrox, have been raided on suspicion of fraud, prosecutors in the southern German town of Landshut said. Some customers might believe they owned 1,000 square meters of the Moon’s surface after paying €29 (EUR), a spokesman said.
Holger Czajka, the founder of Astrox, affiliated with the American-based “Lunar Embassy” novelty deed company, said the certificates were simply an unusual gift. He was sure the inquiry would peter out.
Czajka offered lunar deeds under the “Mondmakler” (“Moon Broker”) brand name.
PHOTO (right): Holger Czajka, a former East German Army officer during the Soviet Union’s authoritarian rule, also sold horoscopes, novelty deeds to Mars and Venus, offered to “re-name prominent stars,” and launched a scheme through which customers could adopt an olive tree.
Astrox not only markets personalized horoscopes, but says it will also re-name prominent stars in the sky after customers — for a fee. For the truly star-crazed, there are pieces of paper declaring the holder to be the proprietor of land on the Moon, Mars or Venus.
The more practical can “adopt” an olive tree in Spain for one year, and receive two liters of cooking oil from their “child.”
Reports about Czajka, 45, who hung up his East German army officer uniform to make money out of novelties, are a mainstay in the German media on slow days when nothing else is happening. Czajka claims to have bought a large area of the Moon from American Dennis Hope, a former bit-part actor, shoe salesman and ventriloquist who refers to himself as “The Head Cheese.”
In 1980, Hope exploited what he believed to be a “loophole” in US law to register “ownership” of the Moon. His purported claim — predated by another American claim fourteen years earlier — is not taken seriously by the United States or any other country, and is roundly scorned by space law experts. Various online shops, ten of them in Germany alone, offer “land certificates” for lunar subdivisions under Hope’s scheme, known as “Lunar Embassy,” headquartered near Reno, Nevada.
The Astrox inquiry is another in a growing list of legal problems involving Lunar Embassy and its affiliates. Hope’s Canadian “ambassador,” Lisa Fulkerson of the former Moonland Registry, became a fugitive after she failed to make a court appearance in November 2003 when she was expected to plead guilty to theft and fraud charges involving the disappearance of more than $600,000 (CAD; about $450,000 US) in investor funds. She was arrested in January 2004 in Las Vegas and is currently awaiting trial.
Hope also filed suit against his own Netherlands “ambassador” when promised royalty payments weren’t received. The case was thrown out of court when a Dutch judge decided he had no jurisdiction over the Moon.
Prosecutors in Germany said the Astrox inquiry began after a fraud complaint from an unidentified association. They said sales brochures were seized and were being examined to see if they were legal.