Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Cult of the Stamp

Old East Europe hands know that a stamp (not a postage stamp) is the most important piece of equipment any official or any 'legal person' can have. Without a stamp, you are nothing. Without the stamp on a document, you have nothing because how can anyone believe that it's a true document? You could have made it up on your computer. When you start a business you get a stamp, when you close it down you have to confirm that it is destroyed.

It's not just any stamp - it has to be round. Nowadays in the more advanced countries, they are self-inking, but if you travel further south and east, eg to Central Asia, you find officials bringing out a little ink pad in a tiny tin with a screw top, unscrew it, ink the stamp, breathe on it just to make sure and then stamp your document. The stamps have to be guarded with their lives, needless to say.

I was thinking of this when yesterday I once again went off to the notary to sign for my loan. Regular readers may remember that I had flown to Vilnius specially in May to sign the loan, only for the notary to find something was amiss a couple of days before (they had had the documents only since April). This did not make me happy. Arranged another appointment in July, when I was in Vilnius anyway, and a couple of days before the notary...... you get my drift.
That time I hit the ground at Vilnius airport and 15 minutes later found myself at the registration centre with a queue of 78 ahead of me.....clearly nothing could be done. The next morning I appeared at another registry centre at 7 am, and yesterday, at another 7 am visit, I got the required document, to tootle off to the notary for the 10 am appointment.

Already at 11 am they were ready to see us. I'd asked for my Lithuanian personal code to be put on any documents for signing, but they refused, since I did not have a 'dokumentas' to prove that this is my personal code. The personal code is on my residence permit provided by the immigration department; this in turn is glued into my passport. It seems it was not 'dokumentas' enough. (Whenever you do something important here, you prove your ID with a 'dokumentas'; usually my UK driving licence suffices - I think a 'dokumentas' needs a photo, too). Clearly I cannot expect the UK government to slap the Lithuanian personal code into my passport - there isn't a space for it.... Sometimes people really do not think logically. Now the document I signed has my passport number on it. The passport will expire and in any case I have two, with different numbers....

The only other problem was the fact that my print-out of an internet banking transaction lacked The Stamp, so how could it possibly be true? Internet banking has been a fact of life in Lithuania for the last 6 years at least. So I had to rush round to the bank to get a stamped document.

Otherwise everything went well, except that the notary forgot to send some documents to the bank, and also to give me back some original documents of my own.

If you wish to know which Vilnius notary's office to avoid, write to me privately....and the bank also knows it...