'This Is So Unfair': Eye-watering Tax Sours Perth Woman’s Freddie Mercury Auction Win

2 November 2023 | 3:29 pm | Mary Varvaris

"I bought the Freddie Mercury doll with my entire rainy-day savings fund.”


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Perth nurse Moira Williamson received a rude shock after buying an item from a recent auction of Freddie Mercury’s treasured items from his estate, being charged thousands of dollars in tax.

Williamson bought a Russian-style doll from Mercury’s personal collection, cared for and eventually let go by the late Queen singer’s dear friend, Mary Austin, when the London auction went ahead in September. Winning the doll in a competitive bidding war, Williamson paid $13,000.

But she ended up paying even more when the doll arrived in Australia last month. Williamson told 9 News in a recent report, “DHL phoned me up and said your item is ready. But then I was told I'd have to pay an extra tax of about $4550 because the doll was from Russia.”

The extra tax came on top of GST and an import duty charge of $2075. Williamson was unknowingly charged with an additional 35% import tariff – anything manufactured or produced in Russia has received that charge since April 2022, when war began between Russia and Ukraine. The tariff will presently last until October 2024.

Williamson called the tariff on the doll “craziness” and added, “I really can't afford to pay this ridiculous duty. I'm just a nurse, and I don't have lots of money. I bought the Freddie Mercury doll with my entire rainy-day savings fund.”

Williamson also noted that the money she spent at the auction did not go to the Russian government but to Mary Austin, the Sotheby’s auction house, and some proceeds to the Mercury Phoenix Trust and the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

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“The money I paid went to Mary Austin and Sotheby's. I am not supporting the war,” she told 9 News. “I totally understand the additional tax based on the Russian conflict, but this is so unfair.”

The 1,500 items sold at the Freddie Mercury: A World of His Own auction at the London Sotheby’s house sold for £12.2 million ($23.9 million), smashing an estimated $11.3 million.

As well as Mercury’s crown and robe designed by Diana Mosley, a baby grand piano, a Russian doll, embroidered napkins, and a comb and a telephone, some of the other exciting items related to Queen that went for auction included Mercury’s handwritten lyric sheets (some of them unfinished) for hits such as We Are The Champions and Killer Queen.

His waistcoats, guitars, and moustache combs used in music videos for Crazy Little Thing Called Love, and These Are The Days Of Our Lives were also for sale.