Friday 1 January 2021

US Congress About to Apply Banking Regulations to Antiquities Market?

There have long been concerns that the secrecy of the antiquities trade, where buyers and sellers are seldom identified, made it an easy way to launder money (Zachary Small, 'Congress Poised to Apply Banking Regulations to Antiquities Market', New York Times Jan. 1, 2021)

The antiquities trade, which regulators have long feared provided fertile ground for money laundering and other illicit activities, will be subject to greater oversight under legislation passed by Congress on Friday when it overrode President Trump’s veto. The provisions tightening scrutiny of the antiquities market were contained within the sprawling National Defense Authorization Act, which Mr. Trump vetoed last week and which the House and Senate voted to override on Monday and on Friday.[...] The new legislation empowers federal regulators to design measures that would remove secrecy from transactions. “We believe this type of legislation is long overdue,” said John Byrne, a lawyer with 30 years of experience in anti-money-laundering rules. “This is an area where clearly organized crime, terrorists, and oligarchs have used cultural artifacts to move illicit funds.”
Cleaning up the antiquities market would be something you'd imagine responsible collectors would welcome, but the article goes on to say... " Dealers resisted the move". Oh, what a surprise, eh? But all this new legislation does is broaden the 1970 Bank Secrecy Act (which increased federal scrutiny of financial transactions), to include the trade of ancient artefacts. Just how long did antiquities dealers think they could retain their nineteenth century facade in the modern world?

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