Friday 10 April 2020

No Proven Syrian Antiquities Case in UK Could Just Mean they are not Looking Carefully Enough

British Museum’s St John Simpson denies Europe is flooded with recently stolen artefacts  from Syria (Lanre Bakare, 'UK curator criticises 'misleading' reports about looted items' Guardian Fri 10 Apr 2020)
Simpson said that in his role as an advisor for UK law enforcement on items that have been seized on exit or entry into the country, there has yet to be a proven case of a recently looted item from Syria being discovered in Britain. He said: “I think the really telling statistic is that over the last eight years of the Syrian civil war we have yet to prove any objects have come into Britain that demonstrably come from looting in Syria,” [...]  
and, sorry for asking, but how many of those "seizures" have there been in those eight years? Are the British actually "seizing" very much at all at those borders? There's the  jolly old ' Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003' that was promulgated precisely to deal with this issue (hugely belatedly implementing the 1970 UNESCO Convention). Maybe Mr St John Simpson could refresh our memories how efficiently UK Customs have been using it to seize illicit imports and charge importers responsible in those last eight years. How many antiquities seizures have led to charges at all in the UK since 2011? If the number is over (say) 800, then perhaps that means something. So, how many is this statistical sample on which the BM guy bases these assessments and salves the reputation of the UK antiquities trade?

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