Friday 7 August 2015

Casey on ISIL Funding through Illicit Antiquities

Sen Casey
Mike Giglio follows up his recent excellently researched article on the grey market in antiquities from Middle Eastern conflict areas by another piece which looks at what is happening at the other end of the chain of transactions in illicit goods: 'Senate Bill Hopes To Stop Looted Syrian Artifacts From Reaching The U.S.', BuzzFeed News Aug. 7, 2015
A new Senate bill that aims to stop looted Syrian antiquities from being sold in the U.S. is also intended to telegraph a warning to American buyers. Sen. Bob Casey, one of the bill’s three sponsors, said he hoped the new legislation would instill some fear in would-be buyers of the illicit artifacts helping to fund ISIS and other armed groups in the civil war. “Part of the underlying message I want to deliver is that if you’re involved in this in any way, you’re helping a terrorist organization,” he said in a phone interview with BuzzFeed News. “You’re not neutral.
Giglio points out that some experts tracking the trade (and virtually all dealers involved in the antiquities trade) say "there is little hard evidence" that looted Syrian antiquities are being bought in the West on a significant scale. His own work on the ground in the region shows how the middlemen on the black market keep the illegal origins of the looted items obscured and some western buyers either turn a blind eye to looted Syrian artefacts or do not do enough to investigate their histories. Such circumstances go a long way to explaining why the evidence is not so "hard" - it is all to do with the opacity of the no-questions-asked market and the dealers involved in it - one of whom recently claimed that only people ignorant of how the market involving dugup antiquities works could expect due diligence from dealers like themselves.
“You have a significant market in the United States,” Casey said. “What we’re trying to do is cut that off.”  The bill would expand the Obama administration’s authority to impose import restrictions on Syrian antiquities, lifting limitations on the president’s power to issue emergency declarations passed under previous laws on protecting artifacts [...] “You can’t achieve the goal [of defeating ISIS] unless you’re cutting out their financing,” Casey said.  If Western buyers purchase illicit Syrian artifacts, then they help to fund the conflict, knowingly or not, said Jonathan Schanzer, an expert on terrorism finance at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, D.C. “They’re not only supporting ISIS [and other groups], they’re eroding history,” he said.[...]  Casey hopes the new bill will help to create a chilling effect. “If we can intimidate people at all to stay away from this,” he said, “we will have achieved a measure of success.”
And that is precisely why the dealers, unable to show that the goods they profit from the sales of actually do come from the 'legitimate' sources they claim and not the grey market, are up in arms about it.

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