Saturday 13 December 2014

FBI Intelligence Report on Illicit Antiquities

 The Die Spiegel article on the German antiquities law reform ( Konstantin von Hammerstein, 'Dubious Provenance: Pressure Grows for Museums to Return Stolen Objects', Der Spiegel December 10, 2014 (originally appeared in German in issue 50/2014 December 8, 2014)) includes a snippet of information from across the sea:
The prevailing wisdom today is that illegal excavations and trade in archaeological objects is destroying our world cultural heritage. And what is playing out before the eyes of the world in Iraq and Syria is no less than a disaster. Still, there is very little reliable data available about the scope and workings of the illegal trade. In an internal "Intelligence Threat Study" distributed in July, the FBI in Washington listed 12 areas in the illicit antiquities trade for which there are "intelligence gaps." They include:
- What is the overall value of the illicit antiquities trade in the US?
- Where are the largest global networks in this trade?
- How many and which US-based art dealers are trading in stolen or looted goods?
- To what extent are US or foreign government workers involved in the illegal trade?
- Are the networks specializing in the illicit antiquities trade also involved in other criminal activities?
- How are the proceeds from illegal trade in the United States then transferred back to the networks in the countries of origin?
- Who are the most active carriers and which countries do they come from?
- Are the carriers also involved in the drug trade, human trafficking or any other smuggling?
The FBI report states that American authorities have returned more than 7,000 archeological objects to 26 different countries since 2008. But that is likely only a fraction of the illegal objects currently being held in the US, the study notes. There are no precise figures available on the global volume of illicit trade and those that do exist diverge widely. The FBI report states that some estimate the illegal trade to be worth $2 billion a year, but others say the actual figures are more comparable to trading in drugs or weapons.

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