INTERPOL recently launched an app that will help identify stolen cultural property and increase the recovery of stolen works and artifacts.  The app will be able to be used by law enforcement agencies as well as the general public.

“Using international standards known as Object ID, museums and private collectors can capture images and record features of their works of art on the App to help keep track of their collections. In the event of a theft, these records can be provided to law enforcement, greatly enhancing the chances of recovery,”

said INTERPOL in a statement. Users will be able to access INTERPOL’s database of stolen works of art and therefore will be able to cross-check if an object has been registered as stolen. The app also allows for the recording of geographical location. “The resulting ‘site cards’ can then be used as evidence or basis for reconstruction if ever the site is looted or destroyed,” it said.

This app will be particularly helpful in preventing a potential buyer from becoming a potential Red Notice subject because they can use the app to avoid illegal activity. After downloading the app, they will be able to insert the item they would like to purchase to find out whether it has been listed on the database of stolen cultural property. This will allow buyers to avoid illegal activity that may have otherwise occurred, unbeknownst to them.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

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

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.


Every country has a different policy in regard to its antiquities and whether they should be returned to the country from which they originated. For example, the government of the Netherlands suggests that looted art should be returned to former colonies. Australia has no laws directly governing repatriation, but there is a government program relating to the return of Aboriginal remains and artifacts. This program “supports the repatriation of ancestral remains and secret sacred objects to their communities of origin to help promote healing and reconciliation” and assists community representatives in working towards the repatriation of remains in various ways. Museums have also considered returning various artifacts from Africa. Countries such as Greece, Israel, India, Morocco, Italy, and Egypt have all sought to repatriate various objects that were being displayed in various museums. Each country’s policy is different:

For countries such as Egypt, where antiquity sales are considered to be illegal, INTERPOL may become involved because such sales are often transnational, thus requiring international cooperation. Criminal allegations of antiquity sales and theft may become the grounds for a Red Notice. In the next post, we’ll discuss INTERPOL’s role in reclaiming antiquities.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

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












For an in-depth look at INTERPOL abuse, trends, and responsive strategies for practitioners, please see my recently published article in the International Enforcement Law Reporter entitled, “INTERPOL’s Expanding Reach, Use, and Consequences: A Global Survey of Abuse Techniques by Some INTERPOL Member Countries and Effective Response Strategies,” found here.  Many thanks to my co-author, Adriana Obeso.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

Join us tomorrow for the event below:

What happens when the organization meant to fight crime helps criminal regimes?

Interpol, the international organization of police agencies, has been manipulated by autocracies into an instrument of transnational repression. Join Heritage on May 18 to learn how we can end this abuse:

See you there.


On May 18, at 11am EST, Dr. Ted Bromund of the Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy at the Heritage Foundation will host a virtual event featuring the following panelists:

  • Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS)
  • Nate Schenkkan (Freedom House)
  • Ben Keith (5SAH)
  • Michelle Estlund (Estlund Law, P.A.)
  • Paul Massaro (US Helsinki Commission) on the issue of transnational repression with a focus on Interpol abuse.

You can register for this event at:

A critical concern for people who have successfully applied to remove their Red Notices from INTERPOL’s Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files is the question of what will happen if the member country makes another request for a Red Notice at a later time.

The removal of a Red Notice often follows a lengthy preparation and waiting process. Clients often cannot fathom the idea of going through the process yet again. However, it has been my experience and observation that repeat requests for Red Notices are rare, and while it is possible that they could be granted, they usually are not.

For example, the media recently reported that officials in India had attempted – for the third time- to obtain a Red Notice against Indian Islamic preacher and television evangelist Zakir Naik. Although the successive requests contained slightly different information than the original request, all of them were denied. INTERPOL recognized that the underlying basis for the charges was essentially the same.

There have been times when member countries have circumvented the approval process that is required for Red Notices and instead issued diffusions, as happened to famed financier and now political activist Bill Browder. In that situation, INTERPOL caught the diffusion after Russia had issued it and removed the diffusion on its own. While this type of activity is disconcerting to potential or prior Red Notice subjects, it does appear to be rare.

Individuals who believe that a member country may repeat a Red Notice or a diffusion request would do well to stay abreast of new court or political developments related to their cases, and to remain in communication with INTEPROL regarding the status of those cases.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.


This week, I received a post idea from Rutsel Silvestre J. Martha, of Lindeborg Counsellors at Law. Mr. Martha is a highly respected expert on international law and his 2010 book, The Legal Foundations of INTERPOL, was one of my earliest sources of instruction regarding all things INTERPOL when I began this area of practice over a decade ago.

In response to a post on the numerous ways in which an individual might catch the attention of INTERPOL, he suggested that I explain how the FIND and MIND databases work, which would in turn explain how even a traffic stop can lead to an arrest. Mr. Martha’s idea is a good one, because many Red Notice subjects are actually law-abiding people, and the way that most law-abiding individuals come into contact with law enforcement officials is through routine traffic stops.

FIND and MIND are acronyms for Mobile INTERPOL Network Database (MIND) and the Fixed INTERPOL Network Database (FIND). These databases were implemented in 2005. They facilitate searches of people, motor vehicles, and documents at international transit or other points. FIND provides access to an active online database, and MIND provides access to an offline database, which is periodically downloaded in an updated form every 24 to 48 hours.

The databases can be accessed by officials at the border or in the field, which makes it easier for officers on the road (see second photo under 2005) to know when they have encountered a person who is wanted by INTERPOL.

In addition to aiding in the detection of Red Notice subjects, the MIND/FIND databases also seem to bear a relationship to decreased terrorist attacks in the countries that utilize them. The databases have been the subjects of several academic studies, including a 2015 study published in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. This study, conducted by Javier Gardeazabal and Todd Sandler,  found that countries that had implemented the FIND/MIND databases also experienced a comparatively fewer transnational terrorist attacks.

An earlier study showed that the initial cost for the databases was inexpensive relative to the value of the service provided, but not all eligible countries participated. Simultaneously, some countries that were initially not expected to utilize the service, such as Bosnia/Herzegovina, Syria, Guatemala, and the Russian Federation, did implement them.  Some of those countries received external funding support for the databases, and that may have played a role in their decision to utilize MIND/FIND.

The use of the FIND/MIND system allows officers to look up an individual’s information without having to go directly to an I-24/7 portal or involve the country’s National Central Bureau in the query, which obviously saves time for local police departments. This allows the more ready access to INTERPOL’s system that could result in a routine traffic stop becoming a Red Notice “hit.”

Thanks to Mr. Martha for his suggestion. As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.


I have a client whose Red Notice was recently blocked by INTERPOL. Blocking is an interim measure that an attorney or client can request while the case is being studied by INTERPOL. When this happens, the notice is not visible to INTERPOL’s member countries, and no detention or extradition activity should be taken in relation to that Red Notice while it is blocked.

The specific country from which the notice originated is also notified that the notice is blocked. In my practice, clients from member countries such as Ecuador, Egypt, Palestine, Russia, and Venezuela have sought and obtained the blocking of a Red Notice while their cases were being studied. Occasionally, INTERPOL will decide on its own to block a notice.

It is possible that a Red Notice will not be removed after an initial decision by the CCF to block the notice. Frequently, however, the reason for the notice being blocked is that the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files (“CCF”) is concerned that something about the underlying case or the notice itself violates INTERPOL’s rules. If the CCF determines after fully studying the case that its initial concerns are valid, the CCF will recommend the removal of the notice.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

Red Notices are viewed as being at least theoretically valid based upon the requirement that they be approved by the General Secretariat prior to acceptance and/or publication by INTERPOL.

Another animal entirely is the diffusion. A diffusion is a notice shared by any one of INTERPOL’S member countries with the other member countries. It is comparable to a BOLO (be on the lookout), as we would say in the States.

A diffusion might be used, for example, if the Republic of South Korea were to inform member countries Sweden or Cameroon that South Korea is looking for an individual specifically in those countries, or if it seeks to share information only with those countries regarding an individual.

A diffusion often contains information similar to a Red Notice, is circulated via INTERPOL’s I-24/7 secure police communications network, and it might be sent to all member countries, or only to specific member countries.

The major difference between a diffusion and a Red Notice is that the General Secretariat does not review or approve a diffusion prior to its being disseminated to other member countries.

This distinction is critical because the lack of review may allow diffusions to be circulated that would otherwise be denied circulation if they were Red Notice requests. For example, if basic judicial information is missing from a diffusion, that absence of information is improper, but will not prevent its circulation because no review is required for a diffusion. This distinction means that diffusions that violate INTERPOL’s rules can and do get circulated undetected until they cause a problem for the subject of the diffusion.

As always, comments and thoughts are welcomed.