The Antiquities Coalition Honors the 25th Anniversary of the Blue Shield

Executive Director Tess Davis Presents At Conference, Celebrating Partnership

This month, our partners at Blue Shield International celebrated 25 years protecting heritage in conflicts, disasters and crises around the world. To commemorate this important milestone, leaders in the field gathered on December 14th and 15th at a virtual convening.

Pulling together the most knowledgeable experts in the field, this anniversary event provided a space for meaningful dialogue. Key takeaways of the event highlight the success of the Blue Shield since its foundation in 1996, the importance of collaboration between private and nonprofit organizations, and next steps for the organization and its partners in the fight against cultural heritage destruction.

Key Takeaways

  • Executive Director Tess Davis spoke at the conference, celebrating over a year of direct partnership between the Antiquities Coalition and Blue Shield International. Joint efforts of the AC and Blue Shield include recent efforts to engage the International Criminal Court on issues of cultural heritage. In partnership with Genocide Watch, the AC submitted formal comments to the court, drawing on the expertise of counterterrorism experts, lawyers, archaeologists, and professionals from leading heritage organizations.
  • In addition, Davis highlighted a recent Blue Shield collaboration on a Policy Brief with the AC Think Tank. The publication examines the UK’s recent decision to repeal the EU Regulation on the Introduction and the Import of Cultural Goods (EU 2019/880) in Great Britain. The brief’s author and Chair of U.K. Committee of the Blue Shield, Fionnuala Rogers, argued that the UK must take immediate steps to mitigate that risk policy gaps in the region. To read the full policy brief, click here.

 

The Antiquities Coalition applauds Blue Shield International’s mission and will continue to support them in their fight to protect cultural heritage in times of disaster. 

To learn more about Blue Shield International and its mission, visit their website, here.

Manhattan DA Bans Former Hedge Fund Manager from Collecting Antiquities

Michael Steinhardt Surrenders 180 Stolen Antiquities Valued at $70 million

Washington, December 6, 2021 — The Antiquities Coalition commends Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr., his colleagues, and partners for the recovery of 180 stolen antiquities worth an estimated $70 million and securing a lifetime ban on acquiring ancient art for Michael H. Steinhardt.

Steinhardt, the hedge fund billionaire, has previously and repeatedly faced litigation for buying and selling looted and trafficked artifacts. To avoid criminal prosecution, he has now agreed to the unprecedented lifetime ban and to surrender the 180 illicit masterpieces in his collection. The Manhattan DA and Homeland Security Investigations are in the process of returning these cultural treasures to the 11 countries who are their rightful owners.

Many of the items relinquished by Steinhardt came from countries in conflict where extremists and organized crime are known to profit from the illicit trade. The United States is a prime destination for such “blood antiquities,” as it remains the largest art market in the world, with New York at its center. The Manhattan DA’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit, alongside HSI, had recovered several thousand stolen antiquities collectively valued at more than $200 million before the Steinhardt seizure.

We applaud the ongoing efforts of Mr. Vance, the Antiquities Trafficking Unit, and HSI to send a strong signal that collectors, auction houses, and museums will be held accountable for engaging in criminal behavior.

Read the D.A.’s Press Release here.

Antiquities Coalition Mentioned in ArtNet News Weekly “Movers & Shakers”

The AC was mentioned in this week’s Art Industry News round-up as part of the “Movers and Shakers” list. 

The article stated: 

“Experts Urge G20 to Tackle Illicit Antiquities Trade – An international coalition of experts has released a new report detailing nine steps the G20 should take in order to crack down on the trade of illicit antiquities. The recommendations for strengthening global policy include creating a roadmap to tackle the problem on a national and international level and identifying and strengthening weak links. (Press release)”

This report was released as the G20 began its annual Summit in Rome, where for the first time, heads of state and government gathered to close loopholes in the $50 billion international art market—still the largest unregulated market in the world.

The report seeks to support the G20 in this important work. It highlights risks posed by the illicit trade through a case study illustrating how armed groups plundered ancient sites in Syria and then laundered cultural objects into unsuspecting global marketplaces. More importantly, based on lessons learned from Syria’s tragedy and others, it calls for new policies, priorities, and practices to be considered by the G20, its Member States, and the private sector as they work together to support the communities victimized by this transnational crime.

Read the report here.

G20 Leaders’ Declaration Includes Statement on Culture, In Line with AC Report Recommendation

World Leaders Address Culture as they Adopt the Rome Declaration at the 2021 G20 Summit

On October 30-31, world leaders met in Rome for the 2021 G20 Summit. At the conclusion of the summit, the G20 leaders adopted the Rome Declaration. The Declaration is a culmination of the work undertaken by the Italian G20 Presidency over the course of this year. 

Under Italy’s leadership, the G20 has prioritized making culture part of the post-COVID recovery, as well as incorporating it into the institution’s broader work to secure economic integrity and transparent markets. Protecting history and heritage from the illicit trade, as well as other major threats such as climate change, is an identified pillar of this broader mission. To that end, on 29-30 July in Rome, Italian Minister of Culture Dario Franceschini brought together the G20 Member States for a cultural ministerial meeting, part of a series of high-level events on the illicit trade that led up to the G20 Summit. 

Culture remained in focus at the Summit, and was reflected in the Leaders’ Declaration: 

“56. Culture. Recalling that culture has intrinsic value, we underline the role of culture and of cultural and creative professionals and businesses as drivers for sustainable development and in fostering the resilience and the regeneration of our economies and societies, stressing the importance of international efforts to safeguard and promote culture, with a key role to be played by UNESCO, and the need to support workers, including in the cultural field, also by facilitating access to employment, social protection, digitalization and business support measures. We emphasize the importance of addressing threats to irreplaceable cultural resources and protecting and preserving cultural heritage damaged, trafficked or endangered by conflicts and disasters, recalling the objectives of UNSC Resolution 2347. We ask our relevant institutions to further pursue the G20 cooperation on culture.”

This statement is in line with the first recommendation from the AC’s new report, Safeguarding Cultural Heritage in Conflict Zones: A Roadmap for the G20 to Combat the Illicit Trade in Cultural Objects. The report, co-authored with international experts, called for the G20 to Build Political Will through a statement in the final declaration: 

“Building on the July 2021 Rome Declaration of the G20 Ministers of Culture, leaders could issue a strong statement in the 2021 Rome Summit communiqué that recognizes looting and illicit trade of cultural objects as serious crimes, prioritizes disrupting and dismantling criminal networks, and advances a long-term strategy to combat the illicit trade’s root causes.”

Leadership at the highest levels is needed to make safeguarding cultural heritage an international priority. By demonstrating the political will to combat looting and trafficking from the top down, the G20 has laid the foundation for all its other work. The AC commends the Italian Republic and the G20 for making this issue part of its agenda and work this year. 


Read the Leaders’ Declaration 

Read our Report

United States and Bahrain Commit to Strengthen Bilateral Ties to Fight Against the Illicit Trade in Cultural Property

Announce Statement of Cooperation at Public Convening of International Experts

The Antiquities Coalition, in close collaboration with the U.S. Department of State and the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities, was honored to host a virtual public event focused on strengthening international cooperation in the fight against the looting and trafficking of cultural property.

Moderated by Smithsonian Distinguished Scholar and Ambassador-at-Large Dr. Richard Kurin of the Smithsonian Institution, the convening facilitated dialogue on critical topics, including emerging obstacles to combating the illicit art and antiquities trade as they are experienced by customs officials, museum institutions, and the private sector. 

This event was one part of a wider online forum to promote mutual understanding between the United States, still the heart of the global art and antiquities world, and Bahrain, which is quickly becoming one of its more important players. To this end, Bahraini and US representatives celebrated recent success in fighting cultural racketeering. 

President of the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities (BACA), Her Excellency Shaikha Mai AlKhalifa, celebrated recent educational initiatives pursued by BACA as well as new collaborative projects between BACA and UNESCO, including awareness campaigns and the establishment of more UNESCO World Heritage sites in Bahrain. Bureau of Educational And Cultural Affairs Acting Assistant Secretary Matthew Lussenhop discussed how seizures and repatriation of illicit antiquities are key to raising awareness of art crime. Dr. Mounir Bouchenaki, Special Advisor to BACA and UNESCO, reviewed the relevant obstacles facing museum institutions and the private sector, highlighting how international cooperation is needed. 

Mr. Lussenhop declared, “The United States cannot do this alone…We feel that our efforts are multiplied when we can work in close partnerships with other interested states like Bahrain.”

In a triumphant conclusion to the event, Chargé d’Affaires to the Kingdom of Bahrain Maggie Nardi announced The 2021 Manama Statement of Cooperation between the US and Bahrain to combat criminal misuse of the art and antiquities market.

Making up 42% of the global art market, the United States is in a unique position to make a difference. Moreover, with its close global ties and effective regional diplomacy, the Kingdom of Bahrain is well positioned to become a leader in the global fight against the illicit trafficking of art and artifacts. In collaboration with countries like Bahrain, United States and international leaders in protecting cultural heritage concluded that— when we work together— meaningful change is possible.

The Antiquities Coalition commends the United States government and the Kingdom of Bahrain for their distinguished leadership in safeguarding our shared cultural heritage.  We thank Dr. Kurin for moderating the discussion, and our distinguished panelists Her Excellency Shaikha Mai AlKhalifa, Acting Assistant Secretary Matthew Lussenhop, and Dr. Mounir Bouchenaki for their participation in the session.

 

 

Now That Antiquities Dealers Must Comply with AML Laws, What Comes Next?

Financial Crimes Task Force Report Provides a Road Map for Other Steps that Should be Taken by the U.S. Government and Private Sector to Bar Criminals from the American Art Market

As we announced in a press statement here, today Congress passed H.R.6395, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (NDAA), which among other things removes antiquities dealers’ current exemption from what are now standard anti-money laundering (AML) laws and regulations under the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA).  H.R. 6395 is an important first step to combat financial crimes facilitated through the art market—but it is just a first step. There are many additional actions that can be taken to safeguard our national security, economic integrity, and responsible collectors, dealers, galleries, auction houses, and museums. 

The Antiquities Coalition convened the multi-stakeholder Financial Crimes Task Force to protect the American art market from criminal misuse. This September, the Task Force released Reframing U.S. Policy on the Art Market: Recommendations for Combating Financial Crimes. This report details how the $28.3 billion American art market, the largest in the world, is threatened by money laundering, terrorist financing, and other related crimes, while providing solutions on how to address these challenges. Those recommendations most relevant and applicable to the passage of H.R. 6395 include: 

1) For H.R. 6395, the Secretary of the Treasury will be already providing an extensive “notice and comment” period for all stakeholders to ensure that any forthcoming regulations are clear, effective, and appropriate in scope. It is critical that the art market work with the U.S. government to tailor these rules, recognizing that increased due diligence protects not only U.S. interests, but those of the art market as well. 

2) Related to the above, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), which safeguards the United States financial system from illicit use, should immediately start extensive outreach to the art market and financial sector, including nationwide conference calls, local and regional meetings, and online webinars. Through such awareness raising, FinCEN should seek to educate these key players about the risks facing their sectors, giving them the knowledge and tools needed to fully comply with any regulatory changes, and enlist them as allies. 

3) H.R. 6395 does not cover art dealers. Antiquities dealers are just part of a much larger art market—a $64.1 billion global market, of which 44% is in the United States. It is critical that Congress apply the BSA to all dealers in cultural property, as, again, it has already done for all other sectors of comparable risk and scale. 

The 2018 5th Anti-Money Laundering Directive of the European Union required dealers for art transactions of €10,000 or more to comply with anti-money laundering regulations, including verifying the seller, buyer, and ultimate beneficial owner (which, as the name suggests, refers to the person or persons who ultimately benefit from a piece’s sale). The United Kingdom and Switzerland now have similar requirements. By making dealers in antiquities subject to the BSA, Congress has taken action to prevent the United States art and antiquities market from becoming a safe haven for financial criminals dodging stricter regulations abroad.

To learn more about how the U.S. government can partner with the private sector to protect the American art market from financial crimes, read the full Antiquities Coalition Task Force Report and explore our other interactive resources here

To learn more about how H.R.6395 will impact the art market, read our press statement here and FAQ here.

Frequently Asked Questions on H.R.6395, Anti-Money Laundering, and the Art Market

As we announced in a press statement here, today Congress passed H.R.6395, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (NDAA)—which, among other things, removes antiquities dealers’ current exemption from what are now standard anti-money laundering (AML) laws and regulations under the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). 

This FAQ answers frequently asked questions on the new law, why it is needed, and what comes next.

What does the NDAA change in the BSA?

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (NDAA), among other things, comprehensively modernizes the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) and provides for the establishment of a coherent set of risk-based priorities. The BSA was first enacted in 1970 and remains the regulatory framework for AML and counter-terrorism financing efforts in the United States. After almost twenty years without major reform, today’s BSA update brings much needed provisions that adequately address present day challenges and opportunities.

What does the BSA have to do with national security?

Under the BSA—which, again, is the country’s primary AML law—designated entities must assist the government in preventing and detecting financial crimes. While what this requires varies according to the individual or institution involved, in general, the law reinforces good business practices like performing customer due diligence and record keeping. In some cases, it may also involve anonymously reporting suspicious activity. In addition to expected businesses, such as banks, the statute already applied to sellers of precious metals, stones, jewels, automobiles, planes, and boats, as well as to casinos, real estate professionals, travel agencies, and pawn shops. 

Why are these changes needed?

The overarching goal in making these changes is to broaden the mission of the BSA to safeguard national security. The update closes significant gaps in AML and counter-terrorism financing efforts, including by adding the trade in antiquities to coverage under the BSA. In addition, the U.S. Department of Treasury and its law enforcement partners will conduct a study on the risks posed by the facilitation of money laundering through the art market.

How does this affect the antiquities market?

Title LXI, “Strengthening Treasury Financial Intelligence, Anti-Money Laundering, and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Programs,” closes a major loophole by beginning to remove the art market’s current exception from what are now standard laws and regulations protecting all other sectors of comparable risk and size—and, with them, our national security and economic integrity.

Specifically, Sec. 6110(a) applies the BSA to “a person engaged in the trade of antiquities, including an advisor, consultant, or any other person who engages as a business in the solicitation or the sale of antiquities.”

How will the BSA be applied to dealers in antiquities?

Importantly, Sec. 6110(b)(2) requires the Secretary of the Treasury (acting through the Director of FinCEN), in coordination with the FBI, HSI, and Attorney General, to consider the appropriate scope for the rulemaking before issuing a proposed rule. The antiquities market’s input will be critical to tailoring effective rules during the “notice and comment” period to come. But, judging from other sectors, regulations would likely include anonymously reporting suspicious activity, performing customer due diligence, and record keeping. So, basically, good business practices in the 21st century, which are already required by the art market’s own industry guidelines and best practices.

What other industries are regulated by the BSA?

As its name suggests, the BSA clearly applies to banks, but it also covers a wide range of businesses much more similar to the art market—sellers of precious metals, stones, jewels, automobiles, planes, and boats, as well as casinos, real estate professionals, travel agencies, and pawn shops. 

What about the art market?

The art market’s absence from this list has long been a major loophole, the consequences of which were made clear in the bipartisan Congressional report The Art Industry and U.S. Policies that Undermine Sanctions, released in July 2020. This report, published by the U.S. Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations after a two-year investigation, revealed how a pair of Russian oligarchs evaded sanctions and laundered millions of dollars through leading American auction houses and dealers. The art market’s continuing exemption from standard laws and regulations gifted these sanctioned Russians with an easy backdoor into the world’s biggest economy.

Recognizing this, Sec. 6110(c) requires that the Secretary of the Treasury, in coordination with the Director of the FBI, the Attorney General, and Secretary of Homeland Security, conduct a study of the art market, considering almost exactly word-for-word the same considerations as taken in rule-making for the antiquities market.  The important distinction is that Sec. 6110(c) does not require a rule to be issued following the conclusion of the study.  Notably, the study will determine whether information on certain transactions in the trade of works of art has a “high degree of usefulness” in criminal, tax, or regulatory matters.

To learn more about how the U.S. government can partner with the private sector to protect the American art market from financial crimes, read the full Antiquities Coalition Task Force Report and explore our other interactive resources here

To learn more about how the U.S. government can build on H.R.6395, read our press statement here and follow-up post here.

Congress Applies Anti-Money Laundering Laws to Antiquities Dealers

Legislation Follows Revelations that America’s Enemies Are Exploiting Regulatory Loopholes in Its $28.3 Billion Art Market

WASHINGTON, DC, January 1, 2021With the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (NDAA), which passed today, Congress has begun to close regulatory loopholes that have made the American art market one of the largest unregulated markets in the world.

The bill, H.R. 6395, removed antiquities dealers’ current exemption from what are now standard anti-money laundering (AML) laws and regulations under the U.S. Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). Specifically, the NDAA adds those “engaged in the trade” of ancient art and artifacts to the BSA’s list of high risk professions and industries, which must assist the U.S. government in preventing and detecting financial crimes. While what this requires in practice will be determined at a later date, the BSA has generally sought to reinforce good business practices like performing customer due diligence and record keeping, as well as anonymously reporting suspicious activity to the relevant authorities. In addition to expected businesses like banks, the statute already applies to sellers of precious metals, stones, jewels, automobiles, planes, and boats, as well as to casinos, real estate professionals, travel agencies, and pawn shops.

“A bipartisan Congress investigation confirmed that bad actors are exploiting the multi-billion dollar American art market, threatening our national security and economic integrity, as well as responsible collectors, galleries, auction houses, and museums,” said Deborah Lehr, chairman and founder of the Antiquities Coalition, referring to July revelations that Russian oligarchs had laundered millions through American auction houses and art dealers, fully evading U.S. sanctions on Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. “By applying anti-money laundering protections to antiquities dealers, Congress has taken an important first step to fight back, but this is just a first step. There is much more the U.S. government can—and should—do in partnership with the private sector to combat criminal misuse of the art market.”

One roadmap was provided by Reframing U.S. Policy on the Art Market: Recommendations for Combating Financial Crimes, published in September by the Antiquities Coalition’s Financial Crimes Task Force. This comprehensive report details how the American art market, which makes up 44 percent of the global total, is dangerously susceptible to money laundering, terrorist financing, sanctions violations, and related crimes. It also provides 44 solutions to address these challenges—foremost of which is adding dealers in cultural property to the BSA.

John Byrne, co-chair of the Task Force and former chairman of the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists (ACAMS), the largest AML organization in the world, also praised today’s action by Congress.

“The AML community has long advocated that those with financial footprints that can be abused for the movement of illicit funds be part of the BSA infrastructure,” Byrne said. “The actions of this Congress will ensure that criminals and terrorists will no longer have an easy path to utilize cultural artifacts to support future horrific acts.”

To learn more about how the U.S. government can partner with the private sector to protect the American art market from financial crimes, read the full Antiquities Coalition Task Force Report and explore our other interactive resources here

To learn more about how H.R.6395 will impact the art market, read our FAQ here.

To learn more about how the U.S. government can build on H.R.6395, read our post here.

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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 theantiquitiescoalition.org.

Contact

press@theantiquitiescoalition.org

202.798.5245 (T)