Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Looted Antiquities Flood Sites Like Amazon, Facebook

Amazon enables unpapered coin sales
A flood of potentially stolen art objects from the Middle East is showing up on Amazon, eBay, Facebook and WhatsApp, often ensnaring unsuspecting buyers (Georgi Kantchev, 'Buyer Beware: Looted Antiquities Flood Online Sites Like Amazon, Facebook', Wall Street Journal Nov. 1, 2017).
Criminals have for years sold illegal goods online. But the growth of social networks and e-commerce platforms, coupled with the recent industrial-scale looting by Islamic State across the Middle East, has brought a stream of stolen antiquities online, often being offered to unsuspecting buyers, according to U.S. and European security officials, antiquities experts and documents seen by The Wall Street Journal. Law-enforcement officials say the online outlets have become a vexing challenge as they battle a wave of looting that is stripping heritage sites of ancient artifacts. Revenue from the sales is often used to finance various types of terrorist and criminal groups that also use the trade to launder other illicit income including drug and weapons trafficking, U.S. and European government officials say. [...] Every day there are at least 100,000 antiquities for sale online, valued at over $10 million, estimates Neil Brodie, senior research fellow in Endangered Archaeology at the University of Oxford. After researching antiquities offerings at leading online marketplaces, Mr. Brodie estimates that up to 80% of the objects offered have no legal provenance, meaning they are most likely looted or fake. Other authorities say Mr. Brodie’s estimates sound accurate. [...] Experts warn the prevalence of looted offerings today—and the limited online policing—means amateur collectors could easily end up buying looted artifacts online.
The problem is not one that only affects sites in the Middle East:
“Internet sales platforms upgrade the difficulty of the investigations,” said Alberto Rodao Martín, an officer at the criminal intelligence unit of Spain’s Civil Guard police agency. “Now looters in Spain send packages of ancient coins directly to collectors in the U.S. We’re overwhelmed.”
As a result of e-commerce sites providing an easy-to-use sales channel for the antiquities market, the exploitation of the archaeological record to supply this expanding market is rapidly increasing, and this is often going on in full sight.
On Amazon, third-party sellers have advertised “uncleaned coins,” a tell-tale sign that they might have been recently excavated. [...] A recent advertisement on Amazon offering “One Uncleaned Ancient Roman Coin” for $14.99 depicted dozens of coins covered by such dirt. “Freshly dug,” the ad read. “These coins are straight from the Metal Detector.” “This stuff is certainly illegally looted and smuggled,” said Nathan T. Elkins, associate professor of art history at Baylor University in Texas, referring to these coins and other similar ads he saw on Amazon. Amazon said it removed the Roman coin ad and two others after the Journal contacted the company. 

but, whatever face-saving action Amazon undertook when contacted about a specific item, in fact if you check, the ad is already back up and 'Ancient Coin House' (an anonymous Amazon seller for ten years) has a lot of (currently 111 to be precise) other similar adverts on Amazon for uncleaned loose coins from bulk lots to buy.... take a look. They include Islamic coins from the Middle East. Why did Amazon pull one advert, but not examine the activities of one of their long-term sellers on their portal as a whole? Shame on you for enabling this trade, Amazon. 

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