Archive for ‘Illicit Antiquities’


Private ‘rescue’-by-purchase of stolen cultural goods: The material and social consequences and the complicity of Europe and North America

In an article in the International Journal for Criminal Justice and Social Democracy, I assess the risks of private ‘rescue’-by-purchase of stolen cultural goods.

Apart from funding crime and receiving the proceeds of crime, other studies of negligent and criminal collecting have demonstrated consequences such as destruction of knowledge through looting and misdirection of science through use of forgeries (Chippindale and Gill 2000; Gill and Chippindale 1993; Muscarella 2001; Nørskov 2002); incentivisation of corruption (Hardy 2019a); interference with the rule of law (Keenan 2005; Hardy 2019a); and the degradation of sources of cultural and socio-economic resilience for indigenous and other vulnerable communities in authoritarian states (Keenan 2005).

Drawing on cases of looting and theft in Guatemala, Iran, Bulgaria and Angola, plus thefts of artefacts across Europe to supply collectors in China and fraudulent offers of cultural goods to vulnerable communities in the United States, I demonstrate buyers’ risk of financing organised crime, fraud, money-laundering and reputation-laundering and authorities’ risk of facilitating that financing.

As the toleration or facilitation of private “rescue”-by-purchase ‘enables and encourages people with political and economic power to increase their influence and assets’, while the state continues ‘to police and punish the people who extract and supply those assets’, it is also a threat to the rule of law.


Hardy, S A. 2020: “Private ‘rescue’-by-purchase of stolen cultural goods: The material and social consequences and the complicity of Europe and North America”. International Journal for Criminal Justice and Social Democracy, Volume 9, Number 3. Available at:


trafficking of forgeries by forced migrants and forced migrants as false provenances for forgeries

While I was piecing together English-language evidence of looting and trafficking of antiquities by internally-displaced persons and internationally-displaced persons, I looked at Turkish-language evidence, too. For a variety of reasons, it shed most light on trafficking of forgeries by forced migrants and supposed purchases from forced migrants as false provenances for forgeries.

From the very beginning, it must be borne in mind that only around one per cent of all suspected cultural property criminals in Turkey do not have Turkish nationality (cf. Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Adli Sicil ve İstatistik Genel Müdürlüğü, 2019: 46 – table 2-13). Irresponsible discussion is dangerous discussion. Still, there is cultural property crime by non-citizens; it is bound up with conflict and crisis; and it is being discussed irresponsibly, through ignorance and malice. None of that can be addressed by silence.

read more »


Turkey’s Gendarmerie caught a Covid-19-infected, health emergency worker-impersonating antiquities trafficker

Profit-driven criminals are adapting to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic and networks such as the Alliance to Counter Crime Online and the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime are monitoring these interactions between the health emergency and illicit activity. The Wildlife Justice Commission has documented adaptations in poaching and trafficking of wildlife.

Such criminals are also exploiting the opportunities of the crisis, notably through cybercrime, fraud, extortion, counterfeit and substandard goods, and organised property crime (which is often advanced by impersonating health professionals or government officials). S-3 Research has documented various online scams around coronavirus test kits. And the Counter Extremism Project has documented that extremist movements are exploiting the crisis too.

The Antiquities Trafficking and Heritage Anthropology (ATHAR) Project has documented increases in antiquities looting and online trafficking through online communities that span North Africa and West Asia, plus advertisement of (alleged) personal protective equipment (PPE), ‘including face masks, antibacterial gel and even Covid-19 testing kits’ in those online communities. (fn1)

read more »


the international conference on Handling of Cultural Goods and Financing of Political Violence, at the Norwegian Institute in Rome, has been postponed

It is slightly strange to announce the postponement of a conference that itself has not been announced. Still, due to the safety measures for the coronavirus pandemic, the conference at the Norwegian Institute in Rome will not happen on the 7th-8th of May; it will be postponed until autumn or winter (or whenever restrictions on international travel are lifted).

When it happens, this international conference on Handling of Cultural Goods and Financing of Political Violence will bring together people who work in academia, cultural heritage, law enforcement and human rights, to discuss looting, theft, forgery and trafficking of cultural property from North Africa, West Asia, Eastern Europe and elsewhere, plus handling of illicit goods in Western Europe and North America, where markets consume art and antiquities without due diligence and online markets operate without effective governance. There will be a particular focus on conflict financing, with a broad view that encompasses everything from terrorist financing to regime enrichment.


fuelling of an illicit market and financing of political violence in Syria, feeding of propaganda around the world

In the course of expanding a study (into two studies) of the practice of “rescue”-by-purchase of looted antiquities, I traced out a case, that I mentioned before in the context of fake conflict antiquities, that intertwined destruction and looting in Syria; behaviour of law enforcement agencies in source and transit countries and businesses in market countries; the politics and economics of the war in Syria; and propaganda within Syria, across the region and around the world.

read more »


Help the Guardian locate Benin bronze statues in the UK

Molly Blackall @mollyblackall and the Guardian Community @Gdntakepart are appealing for people to help us locate Benin bronze statues in the UK, which are products of the British Empire’s 1897 punitive expedition to (invasion, massacre, devastation and plunder of) the Benin Kingdom (where is now Nigeria). Information can be supplied in encrypted forms, either on the same page as the article or on another.

read more »

Tags: ,

reputation-laundering through the art market in Europe

greenwashing/brownwashing of misconduct

There is already concern about greenwashing or brownwashing of repressive regimes and other exploitative systems through collaboration of cultural institutions with governments and corporations. Within the cultural sector, there is particular concern about complicity in potentially unethical or illegal environmentally-destructive activities and/or socially-violent activities that displace or otherwise mistreat indigenous and other resident communities. And efforts at greenwashing/brownwashing persist around processes of global governance.

read more »


cleaning dirty money from tainted antiquities and cleaning dirty money with clean antiques, in North America, Europe and Asia: art trading and money laundering

known unknowns in Turkey

The historical development of money-laundering crime in Turkey has been summarised by criminologist Bahadır Küçükuysal and (seemingly former) security official Yasin Köse (who seems to have been purged in the post-coup witch-hunt, though it may be a different person with the same name in the same directorate).

read more »


mental health and treasure-hunting

Following the posts on trafficking of antiquities and narcotics and women’s participation in looting and trafficking, this is yet another section that has been cut from a study on looting in Turkey, Greece and Cyprus.

This is a difficult issue to discuss. I am not associating mental health with criminal activity (I have, after all, experienced mental health issues myself), nor any of the legal participants in metal-detecting or treasure-hunting with criminal activity (nor even with each other). Here, I am only interested in a potential connection between participation in treasure-hunting and experience of mental health.

read more »


sex and treasure: women’s participation in looting and trafficking of Mediterranean antiquities

Following the post of work-in-progress on antiquities and narcotics in Cyprus, Greece and Turkey, this is another section that has been cut from the same study (minus one paragraph, while I process some data). Hopefully, this one will be incorporated into a study on the demographics of cultural property criminals.

read more »

%d bloggers like this: