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Douglas Latchford Leaves Behind a Dark Legacy Which Will Long Outlive Him, AC Executive Director Argues in Op-Ed

August 21, 2020

Douglas Latchford passed away this month, under felony indictment, fighting extradition to the United States for masterminding an organized artifact trafficking network that directly linked art world elites with the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror.

In the 1950s, Latchford journeyed to Southeast Asia to seek his fortune. He became known for looting and collecting Cambodian antiquities, with expatriates even referring to him as “Dynamite Doug” for his methods of finding and extracting antiquities from sites. 

If the story stopped there, Davis argues, “Latchford may have been remembered as another colonial rogue, following the playbook of a bygone era.  But everything changed in 1970 with the civil war, which would rage until the 1998 Khmer Rouge surrender. In the intervening years, communist insurgents murdered 2 million people, violence funded in part by a thriving illicit trade in timber, gemstones, and antiquities. In Douglas Latchford, they found not only a buyer, but a partner.”

Davis describes Latchford’s true legacy, exposing his lifelong tactics used to wholesale pillage the nation of Cambodia during decades of civil war, foreign occupation, and genocide. She calls on the art world, willing conspirators, and those who simply turned a blind eye to return the products of Latchford’s decades of criminal activity. 

“For as Cambodia’s story reminds us,” Davis says, “the illicit trade in “blood antiquities” is funding crime, conflict, and terrorism around the world. And — as proved by recent revelations that Russian oligarchs are laundering millions through the American art market — the key perpetrators more closely resemble Douglas Latchford than the black-clad thugs of the Khmer Rouge or Islamic State.”

Read the full op-ed here.