Friday, 26 April 2013

Italy: Looting cases down 29%, forgery cases up

The Carabinieri (Cultural Heritage Protection Command) are reporting that last year the trend was that there was less art theft but more fakes on the market. They report a decrease in art theft (-1.7%) and illicit excavations (- 29%) but an increase in the detection of the activities of counterfeiters (especially in contemporary art) and increases in the number of people referred to the judicial authorities for crimes related to cultural heritage (1150, +6%). Churches are the places most affected by art thieves, followed by private collections and then public institutions. Lazio, Lombardy and Emilia Romagna are the regions which recorded the highest number of thefts, while Sicily, Apulia and Sradegna are the regions with the highest rate of illegal excavations found.  Monitoring of Internet sites has led the Italian police to seize 50,686 items of illicit cultural property (how many other states exercise a cmparable measure of monitoring of the trade, and if they did, what would they find?). They have broadened their investigations in the international level and obtaining the return of over a thousand illicitly exported items in 149 foreign countries. 

The Rome department presented the results of a bust of a smuggling ring there which resulted in the seizure of more than 2000 archaeological artefacts and six paintings, the latter resulting from thefts of objects from private collections in central Italy, 35 people were charged with receiving stolen goods and unlawful appropriation of archaeological material. In the raids the authorities arrested both those engaged in clandestine archaeological diggings as well as others who had been paying large sums of money intent on indiscriminate collecting of elements of the archaeological heritage.
Another investigative action, coordinated by the Public Prosecutor of Rome,  had focused on a group of people working in the interior design industry. This had been seeking precious marbles to decorate houses in the capital, employed reclaimed material, obtained clandestinely, to make mosaic floors, satisfying the demands of some of its customers with a strong taste for the antique.  Among the items recovered were fragments of mosaic tiles and marble flooring of the Roman imperial period, crammed into two containers and ready to be reused in the landscaping of private houses.
A.D., 'Carabinieri,
furti d’arte ma più falsi sul mercato. Bilancio del Comando tutela Patrimonio Culturale',, 24th April 2013.

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