AC’s Tess Davis Quoted in ICIJ’s Met Investigation

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the largest museum in the United States, is no stranger to controversy. In the last decade, the museum has been at the center of numerous government seizures and repatriations, and forced to return millions of dollars worth of looted and stolen antiquities.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), along with reporting partner Finance Uncovered, reviewed records from the Manhattan District Attorney’s office that detail nine warrants to seize ancient works from the Met since 2017. ICIJ reports six of those warrants are from the past year alone, and cover more than 30 ancient relics, while two others haven’t been previously reported.

Tess Davis, Executive Director of the Antiquities Coalition, was quoted as part of the investigation in response to the Met’s ongoing scandals:

“The numbers are rapidly adding up… In what other context could you make headlines so often for holding stolen property and not face any consequences?”

The Antiquities Coalition urges the Met to take strong, concrete, and immediate action to return the stolen items within its walls and set the standard for museums across the globe.

Read the full article here.

Finance Uncovered Features ASEAN Conference Organized by Cambodia with the Antiquities Coalition

Cambodia’s Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, in cooperation with the Antiquities Coalition, held an international conference on September 5-8th in Siem Reap on The Prevention of the Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Properties – An ASEAN Perspective. 

The conference featured government officials and experts in cultural policy, law enforcement, museums, and the art market from around the world and provided an opportunity for greater collaboration and understanding between ASEAN member states.

All 10 ASEAN States were represented at the conference, which was also attended by participants from eight other countries including China, India, and the US. 

Finance Uncovered, whose mission is to “to improve the quantity and quality of investigative stories that are rooted in illicit finance or exploitation by training and supporting journalists and activists around the world” and who has previously covered the illicit trade in antiquities, was represented at the conference by Malia Politzer. Prior to her work at Finance Uncovered, Politzer covered antiquities trafficking for ICIJ

Politzer covered the conference in the context of Cambodia’s recent work to bring their looted statues home in her new article “The Smuggling of Ancient Antiquities: Governments and art world urged to collaborate to end illicit trade.”

Read the article hereRead other coverage of the conference here.

AC and ManchesterCF Partner on Financial Crimes Training Course

Online Course Details How Art and Antiquities are intertwined with Financial Crimes

For too long, bad actors have used art and antiquities to fund their crimes and damage the legitimate art market. To assist global experts in deepening their knowledge of the role cultural heritage plays in financial crimes, the Antiquities Coalition has partnered with ManchesterCF to offer a new online course on the subject. 

Based in Toronto, ManchesterCF develops financial intelligence training programs with a global perspective. They provide online financial intelligence training programs to financial institutions, public-sector agencies and multinational corporations. Their expertise is derived from solid experience in international banking, financial intelligence and compliance.

ManchesterCF has a proven track record of working with financial intelligence and business professionals in both the public and private sectors to successfully implement courses that not only meet but exceed regulatory expectations. They have partnered with the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, AML Intelligence, and United for Wildlife, among others. The AC is proud to join these ranks to offer the FIU (Financial Intelligence Unit) Connect training program on Art & Antiquities. 

The FIU Connect (Art & Antiquities) training program provides insights on:

  • How terrorists commercialize looted antiquities
  • Different cultural heritage laws in the Middle East
  • A risk-based approach to help art market operators to assess and understand their exposure to money laundering

The course is part of ManchesterCF’s online training solution for international banks and national financial intelligence units. Individuals can create a unique login and password to access various courses and deepen their knowledge of anti-money laundering compliance.

This partnership with ManchesterCF reinforces the Antiquities Coalition’s priorities to raise awareness and develop solutions to combat looting. Read more about the course here.

AC and Yazda Partnership Showcases Cultural Heritage Practices of Religious and Ethnic Minority Community in Iraq

Yazda Videos Document Intangible Cultural Heritage Practices and New Heritage Project

The Yazidi community of northern Iraq has taken another significant step in response to the genocidal attacks by the so-called Islamic State in 2014. With the assistance of the Antiquities Coalition, a US-based NGO, and funded by a grant from the United State Agency for International Development, a new program of heritage documentation is releasing its first videos of Yazidi efforts to directly counter attacks on their culture.  

A group of videomakers at Yazda, a Yazidi social and cultural services organization, has received training and guidance in the documentation of intangible cultural heritage from the AC, and is recording and archiving the music, stories, religious practices, and family life of the community. Their first video is a look at this program of intangible heritage documentation, which permanently documents these cultural practices.

The second video documents another program from the Yazda/AC/USAID team. “Ray of the Sun” is a project that brings together young Yazidis and community cultural leaders to teach the history, stories, and culture of the community to the younger generation. Classes take place in displaced person camps and community facilities across northern Iraq and are designed to ensure that the Yazidi have heard the stories and understand the cultural practices of their community.

These efforts record and preserve the cultural practices that define the Yazidi community – the community that ISIS sought to end. 

According to Ismail Issa, the program manager at Yazda, “This program is critically important for the Yazidi people. ISIS attacked us to eradicate us and our culture. With our partners at the Antiquities Coalition and USAID, we are making sure that our culture is understood by our children – who can ensure that it will live on.”

“Our Yazda colleagues have learned the video production and intangible cultural heritage video documentation techniques remarkably quickly and well,” says Antiquities Coalition Co-founder Peter Herdrich, the project director. “We are proud to be working in service to them and to these critical heritage preservation goals.”

Yazda will make scores of videos available to the local community, to the extensive Yazidi diaspora, and to interested people around the world via their YouTube channel early next year in their effort to ensure their culture will never disappear. 

Learn more about the project here.

Watch both videos below.

News Outlets Feature ASEAN Conference Organized by Cambodia with the Antiquities Coalition

Following decades of civil war and unrest in the last century, Cambodia’s wealth of cultural heritage was looted and stolen by bad actors and laundered onto the global art market. 

Today, as Chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Cambodia is working to retrieve its stolen history, while assisting other ASEAN member states in strengthening their own fight against cultural racketeering.

Cambodia’s Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, in cooperation with the Antiquities Coalition, held an international conference on September 5-8th in Siem Reap to achieve this goal. The conference featured government officials and experts in cultural policy, law enforcement, museums, and the art market from around the world and provided an opportunity for greater collaboration and understanding between ASEAN member states.

Tess Davis, Executive Director of the Antiquities Coalition, spoke alongside H.E. Phoeurng Sackona, Cambodia’s Minister of Culture and Fine Arts, and other leaders during the four-day event. In her remarks, Davis noted that Cambodia had recently celebrated some of the largest recoveries of stolen art since World War II.

The conference was covered by numerous sources, including:

The Antiquities Coalition looks forward to sharing takeaways from this event and continuing to work with ASEAN member states to combat looting.

Antiquities Coalition Enlists the Public to Help Cambodia Find Another Missing Masterpiece

Organization Updates the “Ten Most Wanted Antiquities” List Following the Awareness Campaign’s First Successful Recovery

Siem Reap, September 5, 2022 — The Antiquities Coalition is excited to announce a new addition to its “Ten Most Wanted” list, an illustrated guide to cultural treasures from around the world that have been looted or stolen and are still missing. The update follows the awareness campaign’s first success, the recovery and return of a monumental 10th Century sculpture of the elephant-headed god Ganesha. U.S. authorities repatriated the piece to Cambodia on August 8 in New York City.

To honor Cambodia’s continued efforts to recover its stolen heritage, the Antiquities Coalition is introducing Uma, the consort of Shiva, as the newest item on the list. Uma was looted from Khmer-Rouge territory and then laundered onto the global art market by the notorious trafficker Douglas Latchford. The now disgraced “adventurer scholar,” who also trafficked the Ganesha, made headlines in last year’s Pandora Papers for smuggling blood antiquities from Cambodian war zones and then hiding his millions of dollars in profits through the misuse of tax havens, trusts, and offshore accounts. 

Bradley J. Gordon, an American attorney for the Cambodian Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, is leading a team of experts tasked with bringing Khmer antiquities home. Gordon describes how Uma was looted and why it should be returned to the Kingdom:

“Two years ago, the head of a looting gang, Lion, recounted to our team in Cambodia about removing two females from the Prasat Thom complex at Koh Ker in 1997. Jungle Cat, the head of a smaller gang, removed a male from the same location.”

Last year, a team of Cambodian archeologists discovered the pedestal of three statues on site, which they believe belong to the two females and one male. They also discovered a foot which archeologists believe matches one of the females—a statue now on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New YorkThe current location of Uma, the twin of the female statue at the Met, is unknown.

“The other female we are now searching the world for appears in Latchford’s book ‘Adoration and Glory’ according to testimony from Lion. The Cambodians are waiting for all three statues to return home” said Gordon.

Following the successful efforts by Cambodia to locate and return its cultural treasures, including the Ganesha, there is hope that artifacts like Uma will also be returned.

“We’re ecstatic that the Ganesha, one of the Ten Most Wanted Antiquities, is returning to its rightful home, but numerous artifacts remain missing,” said Deborah Lehr, Chair and Founder of the Antiquities Coalition. “Our updated campaign introduces a new Cambodian masterpiece and encourages the public to help us return this heritage. We look forward to continuing to raise awareness of cultural racketeering and collaborating with governments, advocates, and responsible leaders in the art market to combat looting.”

The release of the updated list coincides with an international conference in Siem Reap, hosted by the Royal Government of Cambodia and the Antiquities Coalition, gathering government officials and top experts from around the world to develop concrete solutions to safeguard the region’s past for future generations. The event also serves as an International Plenum and meeting of culture ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to foster greater collaboration and understanding among member states.

The new “Ten Most Wanted Antiquities” now features the following artifacts from Cambodia, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Guatemala, India, Iraq, the United States, and Yemen. The list, chosen in cooperation with top specialists, is accompanied by posters of each object to provide snapshots of the pieces’ significance, their theft, and their last known whereabouts. 

While this list highlights ten missing pieces of heritage, much of the world’s shared history remains in danger. While Cambodia is recovering blood antiquities, conflicts around the world, such as that in Ukraine, ensure that these crimes are still taking place. Periods of unrest heighten the risk that bad actors will exploit vulnerabilities in the art market to fund this illicit trade.

Any information leading to the possible recovery of these items should be submitted to law enforcement using the tip lines below:


About the Antiquities Coalition 

The Antiquities Coalition unites a diverse group of experts in the fight against cultural racketeering: the illicit trade in antiquities by organized criminals and terrorist organizations. This plunder for profit funds crime and conflict around the world—erasing our past and threatening our future. The Coalition’s innovative and practical solutions tackle crimes against heritage head on, empowering communities and countries in crisis. Learn more at

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