Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Tourists Smuggling Antiquities

Kimberly Alderman has a thought provoking post here: Do Tourists Receive a “Get Out of Jail Free” Card to Smuggle Illicit Antiquities? November 24, 2010. It raises again the question of what use it is having laws if everybody knows they are not being applied?
when someone is caught smuggling an illicit artifact into the country, it would be appropriate to impose some sort of penalty. Criminal prosecutions of tourists for smuggling are, of course, difficult, but for as long as they get a “free pass”, they will continue to attempt to sneak illicit artifacts into the country. And the majority of them will succeed.
Of course what a huge fuss there would be if a citizen was detained in a foreign airport "just because" they had some figurine in their baggage. Even in countries which have strict laws about antiquity exports customs do not tend to apply them as stringently as they should (in fact in some cases could well be ignorant of what is and what is not permitted to cross borders, so tend to err on the side of lenience in order to avoid an unpleasant international situation if someone so much as misses a flight home). In general I believe (my dad was a customs officer so I know a little of how these things work) many seizures of antiquities at exit points in fact are due to tipoffs.


Damien Huffer said...

very true...or due to the dodgyness of the packaging and luck sometimes.

Anonymous said...

Of course, part of the problem is that officers at borders aren't antiquities experts - so whether the items are leaving the country or entering it, the chances of them being both discovered and identified are minimal, unless, as you say, there's some intelligence to point them in the right direction.

There's certainly a good argument to be made for a more co-ordinated, and resourced approach to tackling the problem of antiquities smuggling from the various law enforcement bodies involved,and other interested bodies, with a sharing of intelligence and expertise - but in the current economic climate of austerity convincing the powers that be that it's worth spending money on, or diverting staff from other work to,wouldn't be easy.


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