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BSA Must Be Applied to Arts and Antiquities Dealers, AC Founder and Chairman Deborah Lehr Tells the Council on Foreign Relations

October 10, 2020

The United States needs to apply the Bank Secrecy Act to art and antiquities dealers in order to stop financial criminals from abusing the $28.3 billion American art market, Antiquities Coalition Founder and Chairman Deborah Lehr stressed while participating in an October 7 webinar.

The closed-door online event, organized by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), was organized to educate staff and members of the U.S. Congress on the importance of combating the illicit antiquities trade and other crimes in the global art market. 

A recent report from the U.S. Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations referred to the art market as “the largest legal, unregulated market in the United States.” While the Bank Secrecy Act requires similar at-risk industries (e.g., dealers in precious metals, stones and jewels; sellers of automobiles, planes and boats; casinos; real estate professionals; travel agencies; pawnshops) to assist the U.S. government in preventing and detecting financial crimes, the art and antiquities market is currently exempt from this regulation. As Lehr wrote in an August op-ed for The Hill, “The art market is particularly vulnerable to abuse by organized criminals and terrorists, with its multibillion-dollar scale and long-standing culture of secrecy. It is no longer rational to exempt it from common-sense protections.”

CFR—an independent, nonpartisan member organization, think tank, and publisher—was founded in 1921 “to start a conversation in this country about the need for Americans to better understand the world.” It focuses on foreign policy and international affairs and seeks to serve as a resource to those in government and other policy makers. It previously spoke to the Antiquities Coalition about the illicit trade in “blood antiquities” for the podcast Why It Matters.

We thank the CFR for their continuing interest in this topic, which is important to both our global security and world heritage.