In the last post, we addressed illegal antiquity sales, thefts, and the manner in which different countries address those issues. Given that antiquity sales and theft often involve cross-border transactions, INTERPOL may be involved in furthering the prosecution of these transactions. Red Notice subjects who are wanted for antiquities theft or illegal antiquities sale may find themselves facing charges in one country, while another country does not view the alleged actions as criminal. For this reason, it pays to be aware of the various antiquities reclamation activities around the world.

In addition to aiding in the prosecution of antiquity-related crimes, INTERPOL has played a role in reclaiming antiquities. It has assisted in the recovery of many artifacts over the years and has launched various systems to help disrupt the trade of stolen cultural objects. For example, in May of this year, INTERPOL was part of Operation Pandora V., where 56,400 cultural goods were seized and 67 were arrested. Participating countries included France, Greece, Italy, the Slovak Republic, and Spain.

INTERPOL’S approach to antiquities theft is clearly stated in its article entitled, How we Fight Cultural Heritage Crime. INTERPOL believes that “[i]llicit trafficking in cultural property is a transnational crime. Fighting this crime therefore requires international cooperation, which can be facilitated by easily accessible data.”

INTERPOL’s role is to help tackle the theft and trafficking of cultural heritage and works of art. INTERPOL maintains a global database of stolen works of art and supports member countries in their international investigations that help identify and disrupt the criminals behind the destruction of cultural heritage sites. However, information from certain countries is limited and does not fully reflect the total number of stolen works of art worldwide. Countries send INTERPOL information about stolen or trafficked items. INTERPOL then analyses this data and enters it into the Works of Art Database. INTERPOL experts can also add value to the information received.

Additionally, INTERPOL analyzes emerging trends in art thefts such as the proliferation of counterfeit, faked or forged works, or the use of the internet for selling works of dubious background. Many countries do not have police units specializing in cultural property or national databases of stolen items, so INTERPOL encourages this, to make its global network stronger.

In the next post, we’ll review the app that INTERPOL has developed to improve its ability to help identify and recover the stolen cultural property.

*Thanks for today’s post to contributing author Fabiola Meo, J.D. Candidate, 2022.