|Blood antiquities on international market?|
The Italian mafia has long been suspected of selling weapons to jihadist groups. A new detail in the La Stampa text is that allegedly, 'in exchange for weapons, the Italian mob obtains Greek and Roman antiquities that ISIL fighters stolen during their battles in Libya'
A La Stampa reporter posing as a collector was taken to a salami factory in southern Italy where he was offered the marble head of Roman statue looted from Libya for €60,000. The reporter was also shown a photograph of a larger head of a looted Greek statue, on sale for €800,000. According to the report, antiquities are brought to the Calabrian port of Gioia Tauro by Chinese-operated cargo ships.The antiquities are said to be being sold 'to art patrons and connoisseurs (sic) from Asia and Russia' [...] 'the stolen treasures are [...] later auctioned to art collectors from China, Russia and Japan as well as the wealthy from Gulf countries'.
I doubt that there really is an 'exchange' (in kind), rather the weapons are sold to jihadists or middlemen and the transport which brought them across international borders undetected is used to transfer another illicit cargo on the return journey. This is the way organized criminal groups profit from both legs of the journey - which does not mean that the so-called 'art patrons' who buy this stuff are not financing the activities of organized groups which are involved in the movement of other illicit items, such as drugs and black market weaponry.
Donna Yates is maintaining scepticism. The dealers' lobbyists as usual are steering clear of the topic so far.
Domenico Quirico, 'Arte antica in cambio di armi, affari d’oro in Italia per l’asse fra Isis e ’ndrangheta' La Stampa 16th October 2016
Tom Porter, 'Italian mafia sells Libyan antiquities looted by Islamic State Italian crime gangs reportedly exchanged the archaeological treasures for weapons'. International Business Times October 17, 2016
Hannah McGivern, 'Italian mafia trading weapons for Libyan artefacts plundered by Isil?' Art Newspaper 17 October 2016
Libyan Express, Agencies, 'Italian mafia is providing Libya’s IS with weapons in return of ancient artefacts', Monday 17 October 2016.
Barbie Latza Nadeau, 'The Mafia Runs Guns for ISIS in Europe The mobsters have the weapons, and they’re making a killing selling them off to Islamic radicals ', The Daily Beast 24th March 2016.
Barbie Latza Nadeau, 'Italian Mob Trades Weapons for Looted Art From ISIS in Libya Two Italian organized-crime rings are accused of trading in weapons with ISIS fighters for illegally pilfered artifacts from Libya', The Daily Beast 18th October 2016.
Chris Jones in his 'Gates of Nineveh' blog gives an interesting breakdown of the story and is sceptical about some of the details (' The Mafia, Looted Antiquities, and the KGB' October 19, 2016 )