Saturday, 18 November 2017

Networking with Cultural Criminals

News from China:
Chinese police have caught 91 suspected tomb raiders and antique smugglers, and retrieved more than 1,100 cultural relics, the Ministry of Public Security announced Friday. The investigation lasted over a year, with arrests made in Shaanxi, Shanxi, Gansu, and Henan province, said the police. The operation started July 2016 after police in Chunhua county, northwest China's Shaanxi Province, were alerted that the tomb of Lady Gouyi, a concubine of Emperor Wu (141 B.C.- 87 B.C.) and the mother of Emperor Zhao (87 B.C.- 74 B.C.) of the Han Dynasty (202 B.C.-A.D.220 ), had been raided.
There is a gallery of photos of the antiquities seized, mostly the sort of stuff that comes onto the international market from Chinese sources.

This case is a reminder that rarely do antiquities 'surface' on the market (from 'underground') due to the activities of a single individual (the nominal starving father digging to 'feed his children' beloved of dealer folklore), but is the product of an organized network of people  having the means to sidestep the checks and regulations that are supposed to stop criminal activity such as antiquities trafficking.

Dealers and collectors of antiquities which are bought in a non-transparent and no-questions-asked manner seem to regard these 'systemic leaks' that escaped the notice of the authorities of the source countries to be fair game, the results of a game of luck, but by putting money into the pockets of those at one end of the established supply chain and counting on doing further business with these suppliers, they are providing the motor for the continued functioning of that chain, they are investing in fact in organized crime. They become part of the network. 

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