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Conflict Antiquities: A Terrorist Financing Risk

August 4, 2017

The United States remains the world’s largest single market for arts and antiquities—making up 29.5% of the global total. However, it also remains highly unregulated, and thus dangerously susceptible to crimes such as trafficking, money laundering, and even terrorist financing.

In its latest infographic, the Antiquities Coalition explores this terrorist financing risk, taking a closer look at the millions of dollars in cultural property that continue to flow into the American art market. In 2016 alone, $146,960,100 worth came into the United States, just in declared imports of arts, collectors pieces, and antiques (H.S. Code Chapter 97) from the world’s ten nations with the most terrorist activity.* All of these countries have a rich cultural heritage, which is under threat from looting and trafficking, and all also have ties to violent extremist organizations, many of which are already known to fund themselves through cultural racketeering.

No one knows just how much money terrorists are making on antiquities looting and trafficking, but as this infographic shows, even the most conservative estimates have grave implications for security around the globe. Most major governments, including the United States, have committed to take aggressive action to halt the illicit trade and ensure that the U.S. market is not a source of financing for terrorism.  However, thus far, the United States has only imposed import restrictions on antiquities from three of these countries—Iraq, Syria, and Egypt. For the other seven, criminals, armed insurgents, and terrorists trafficking antiquities still have easy access to the multi-million dollar U.S. market.

Closing our art market to conflict antiquities will help to cut off an important source of criminal and terrorist financing—while also protecting our world heritage and the legitimate art market. To learn more, explore our website, and follow us on social media.

*Subheading 9706: Antiques Exceeding an Age of 100 Years made up a shocking 90% of Chapter 97 imports from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, and nearly half from the top ten countries overall. Please stay tuned to the Antiquities Coalition blog for a more detailed breakdown of these figures.