Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Spain returns Colombian treasure seized from drug gangs

Collectors just love the cute pre-columbian figurines,
not so keen on other cultural artefacts so they cannot
 legitimately claim to be 'studying the [whole] past'
through the objects they buy. An odd surface on this
 one to my eyes.
Some collectors' lobbyists, bless them, try to convince the more gullible among their readers, the ones that have not yet turned their back on their lies and sniping, that the United States is alone in fighting cultural property crime. So you'll not see on their blogs information that this week Spain has returned  to Colombia 691 artefacts estimated to be worth some $7m seized from drug gangs in a police operation (which was 11 years ago, well before the 2006 US MOU). All the main civilisations that lived in the region are represented in the collection.
There is often a surprising overlap between the highly specialized criminal worlds of artifact and art theft and the underworld heavyweights in the drug trade [...]  theft of cultural products can be directly tied to drug trafficking, as a way to launder drug money - as may have occurred in this case - or as collateral in drug deals, since works of art are relatively easy to smuggle and valuable on international markets.  [...] even as a standalone crime, the theft and trafficking of ancient artifacts and valuable works of art is a widespread and lucrative trade. [...] Once trafficked, stolen cultural pieces are difficult to reclaim because of a lack of adequate legislation in some countries, and buyers who claim ignorance
That's because they deliberately refrain from asking any questions. The no-questions-asked market and the people that participate in it are the real problem.

'Spain sends ancient treasures back to Colombia' BBC, 1 September 2014 

Marguerite Cawley, 'Artifact Smuggling Case Shows Links Between Drugs and Culture' Insight  Tuesday, 02 September 2014

Pre-columbian druggie?
'Donna Tartt's 2013 Pulitzer Prize winning novel "The Goldfinch," in which "a youth removes a famous work of art from the wreckage of a bombed museum and the painting is later traded between international drug dealers". They also suggest that "in Mexico, the theft of religious artifacts has become an important earner for criminal groups that have diversified their activities, with 42 percent of such thefts reportedly linked to organized crime".


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