Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Posing as a Buyer and... what?

More of the same old stuff.
The WhatsApp message appeared on his iPhone: photos of an ancient Mesopotamian vase worth $250,000, part of a highly valued set that is waiting to be extracted. The recipient, Amr Al-Azm, replied that he was interested. How to proceed? A message from a different account followed. The vase could be smuggled through Lebanon. Azm, an anthropology professor in Ohio, was faking it, as he does when photos of looted antiquities are sent to him in the belief that he is a collector or dealer. He is a self-appointed detective hoping to save some of mankind’s rarest and most vulnerable artifacts by tracking the burgeoning antiquities trade of ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
Yeah? And what happened here? Is somebody now under arrest and the vase in an Ohio safe waiting to be presented as evidence in the court case as the authorities try to trace its passage through the gang of culture criminals? Where is this vase now Professor Azm?  Anyway, why is Al-Azm getting these things from people who think he is a dealer or collector?

It's all very well talking the "Monuments Men" talk for the anxious-for-an-anti-ISIL-story press, what we need is a means of taking action. Producing superficial feel-good stories for the American press is not helping debate on the changes that need to take place in the antiquities market.


David Knell said...

I'm not sure that Al-Azm actually BUYS the items. I get the impression that he merely poses as a potential customer in order to analyse the traffic.

Paul Barford said...

The whole story sounds dubious to me. Saving things requires more than just "watching" as criminals pass it round. Sting them and get them behind bars and talking.

David Knell said...

It depends on Al-Azm's objectives. He may be merely gathering information to highlight the problem (which admittedly is a bit pointless in itself) or he may be gathering information with an end goal of involving international law enforcement in a 'sting' - in which case he would need to explore the crime network as deeply as possible - and exposing his contacts at this stage may be far too premature and merely blow his cover.

Of course, I may be giving him too much credit. And there is also the problem of getting any international law enforcement to act effectively. I suspect the latter obstacle would be nigh impossible.

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