Saturday 27 March 2010

Canada dumping ground for stolen art

According to an article in The Star (Greg Quill, Canada a dumpinbg ground for stolen art Mar 26 2010), art thieves and black market dealers in cultural heritage material have a good chance of unloading their valuable booty — and avoiding prosecution — in Canada. There are no specialist art theft investigators in the Toronto police force, and none in the OPP or the RCMP. There is however a small art theft investigation unit in Montreal. Because of the paucity of specialist investigators and prosecutions for art theft in Canada, there’s a considerable illicit market for stolen art there.

Toronto cultural law specialist Bonnie Czegledi is the author of the book Crimes Against Art: International Art and Cultural Heritage Law (Carswell). She is founder of the Institute of Art and Cultural Heritage, which works on behalf of museums and collectors around the world to verify the provenance of acquisitions and donated art works.
Czegledi says that art theft preferences are generally driven by supply and demand, “Thieves will steal if they know people are willing to buy. Sometimes you can see trends — a rash of Group of Seven thefts not so long ago,and First Nations cultural objects usually find plenty of buyers south of the border. It varies from country to country” [...] “we simply don’t have
the specialist law enforcement, investigators and prosecutors necessary to provide a viable deterrent in this country. [...] Even when art thieves are prosecuted in Canada they get very light or conditional sentences. There are no guidelines for the prosecution of cultural theft, unlike in the U.S., where the FBI has 13 special art crimes investigators, and cultural heritage crimes are considered more serious than most other kinds of theft.”
Those 13 FBI agents are said to be the only dedicated art-theft investigators in the English-speaking world. According to the article, the illicit trade in stolen art worldwide is a $6 billion (U.S.)-a- year business, said Czegledi.

[Czegledi is also the author of Remember you’re a lawyer when buying art on your summer holidays, The Lawyers Weekly (14 July 2006) Vol.26 No.11 ].

1 comment:

Mark said...

Paul, I've left a lengthy response to Quill's article that I think you might enjoy.

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