Friday 11 May 2012

Loot Busters News (1)

London-based "Lootbusters" has put out their first newsletter and its a cracker. They've posted up photos and details of all sorts of missing stuff, "stolen archaeological material from the Mediterranean to Central Asia, which has gone missing since 1970 and whose location is not currently known". The material is accessible through links on the front page at They say that "most people [I presume who have been caught with this material on their hands] have been going out of their way to help". But then some have problems:
One dealer was very honest, and said he had no memory of an item witnesses claim he was boasting about having smuggled out of Afghanistan; he couldn't even remember much about his previous gallery space. We genuinely believe him, as we've been provided with many emails where he discussed his cocaine use, and cocaine has been shown in study after study to badly affect memory. We've tried to handle this situation carefully as substance dependence is an illness, and we want to be as tactful and as considerate as possible. 
Do collectors really know who they are buying this stuff from, and where the money they place in the dealer's pocket goes? Is this particular individual getting his "substances" from the same place as much of his "stock"? Just who has he been doing business with?
Dr King suggests:
A couple of dealers are notorious for faking provenances but most collectors are aware that they need to do basic due diligence as they will be the ones who lose out financially if an item has to be returned. 
"Faking provenance"?  Honest people like all antiquity dealers? No! Surely not?  At least she says its only a "couple". It would seem however from their insistence on an unregulated trade, that most ancient coin collectors could not care less where what they buy came from. Ask-no-questions-get-told-no-lies.

We look forward to hearing of more Lootbusting success in coming weeks.


Dorothy King said...

I'm not up on the drugs trade, but I believe opium is from Afghanistan, cocaine is from Columbia.

We've gone out of our way to try to be discrete, but most of the pieces with serious issues seem to be passing through two dealers.

Paul Barford said...

That may be, but I am not guessing who the dealers concerned are, nor what kind of antiquities we are talking about, Bactrian, Gandharan, Pre-Columbian, Greek vases etc etc. In any case I would not assume that international organized criminal groups do their nefarious business involving illegally obtained goods from just one country or even region of the world.

What I think however is important is that the 'no-questions-asked' trade is based on the client implicitly trusting the dealers, though without having any measure by which they can evaluate how trustworthy the individuals concerned are.

Keep up the good work

Dorothy King said...

That one is silver ware - grey schist Gandharan scultpure everyone knows comes from there, a treasure of silver ware is harder to locate.

Collectors are the ones who suffer, as they loose the piece and the money they paid for it, so I hope they are getting a little more savvy.

Paul Barford said...

Well, it would be nice to believe that they are all capable of learning and thinking these things through. Sadly from what one reads from certain sectors of the milieu, I have considerable doubts about that.

Dorothy King said...

I can only base myself on my own experience, which has been that most collectors understand once you start explaining things to them. Not all - one I can't deal with, so LootBusters doesn't. And the ones that are really bad - a minority - will just have to deal with the authorities in whichever country their material comes from.

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