As an organization dedicated to combating the illicit trade in ancient art, which is funding crime, armed conflict, and violent extremism, the Antiquities Coalition is proud to support H.R. 6069, the “Fight Illicit Networks and Detect Trafficking Act” (“FIND Trafficking Act”). The bill was introduced by Representative Juan Vargas (D-CA) to the House Financial Services Committee, and Representatives Hensarling (R-TX) and Walden (R-OR) are bill co-sponsors. The bill would require the Comptroller General of the United States to carry out a study on how virtual currencies and online marketplaces are used to buy, sell, or facilitate the financing of goods or services associated with sex trafficking or drug trafficking, and for other purposes.
As the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) warned back in 2013, art and antiquities are particularly vulnerable to both money laundering and terrorist financing. We believe that Congress has an opportunity to do even more in its fight against the use of virtual currencies for illicit trade. The U.S. Department of State estimates that each year 3–5% of the global GDP is laundered, totaling some $2.17–$3.61 trillion. Moreover, the U.S. Department of State claims that as post-9/11 reforms have increasingly closed the formal financial sector to violent extremist organizations, they have turned back to “traditional ways such as… money laundering… to move their funds to finance their terrorist activities.” The proliferation of illicit cryptocurrency use opens new, non-traditional methods for terrorist groups to launder money and fund criminal activities and thus imperils strides made in combating financial crimes.
Mr. Robert Novy, Deputy Assistant Director, Office of Investigations, United States Secret Service, mentioned in his June 20th testimony before the House Financial Services Committee, that the two primary focus areas of the Secret Service with regards to virtual currencies are combating criminal schemes and money laundering. Those are two objectives we share.
In Thomas Ott’s testimony on behalf of the United States Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”), he urged Congress to take targeted action to prevent the growth of illicit activity involving cryptocurrencies. Mr. Ott also noted that more than one-third of all registered virtual currency money transmitters are based in the U.S.
In 2017, the U.S. remained the world’s largest art market, valued at a shocking $26.6 billion and accounting for 42% of the global total. When taking into account the substantial role of the U.S. in both art markets and cryptocurrencies, the need for precise policy in this domain is clear.
In accordance with our goals of adopting a targeted approach to combating the illicit trade of art and antiquities, our organization supports H.R. 6069. As of July 2018, the bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. You can track its progress here.