Archive for ‘News & Analysis’


human rights worker and anti-imperialist fighter Maksym Butkevych has been captured by Russia’s invading forces

Maksym Butkevych, a pacifist Christian anarchist, human rights worker and journalist, who volunteered to join the Ukrainian Armed Forces to combat Russia’s war of aggression and genocide, has been captured by Russia’s invading forces and is being defamed with grotesque propaganda.

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In 2018, “a chartered Tupolev-154 jetliner” reportedly flew from Kazakhstan to Switzerland, “loaded up” with “antiques, jewelry, works of art and other cargo”.

As we see monuments to dictators get toppled in demonstrations in Kazakhstan, as they were adapted in the Slipper Uprising in Belarus and toppled or adapted in the Maidan Revolution in Ukraine, we can see the causes of this civil resistance in a raft of issues around political unfreedom and socio-economic insecurity, including the theft of wealth by the elite that mires citizens in poverty, which involves the stashing and display of that dirty money in the form of cultural property.

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Norway’s economic crime unit, Ministry of Culture, Cultural History Museum, National Library and University of Oslo are assisting Iraq in the pursuit of looted and illegally-exported antiquities

Norway’s economic crime unit (Økokrim), its Ministry of Culture (Kulturdepartementet) and supporting experts at the Cultural History Museum (Kulturhistorisk museum), the National Library (Nasjonalbiblioteket) and the University of Oslo (Universitetet i Oslo) are assisting Iraq in the pursuit of looted and illegally-exported antiquities.

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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.


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.

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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.

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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).

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there are problems with the presentation of evidence by police and journalists in Turkey, in the case that inadvertently involves Gökhan Sarıgöl

The investigation is still developing and I may write a separate update before the conclusion of the case. Nevertheless, it is important to note that, as I prove with photographs from Gökhan Sarıgöl and open-source evidence, there are problems with the presentation of evidence by police and journalists in the case that inadvertently involves him. The police’s presentation of at least one object in the seizure is misleading, the police’s presentation of the seizure itself is misleading and journalists’ appropriation of an irrelevant photograph is misleading.


immoral, failed refugee policy in Europe and subsistence trafficking of fake antiquities by asylum-seekers from North Africa and West Asia

When I was discussing subsistence trafficking of cultural objects by asylum-seekers with students of the ARCA Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection, I was reminded of a case from 2015, when Mesopotamian-style figurines were found in a tent (šotorov) at a reception centre (sprejemnem centru) for refugees (begunce) in Gruškovje, Slovenia. When they were found, they were believed to be ‘Sumerian statues of great historical value that could have been 4,500 years old [sumerske kipce velike zgodovinske vrednosti, ki bi lahko bili stari 4.500 let]’.

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Adnan Oktar (or Harun Yahya), truckloads of ‘antiquities’ and a ‘stolen’ painting

When I summarily checked the coverage of cultural property crime in Russia-controlled, Turkish-language Sputnik News, I was reminded of the ongoing case against Islamic televangelist cult leader (and, inevitably, conspiracy theorist) Adnan Oktar (who is also referred to as Adnan Hoca and also operates as Harun Yahya and Adnan Harun Yahya).

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