Financial Crimes Task Force Unveils Action Plan to Protect $28.3B U.S. Art Market and National Security
September 24, 2020
Comprehensive Report Follows Revelations that America’s Enemies Are Using Regulatory Loopholes to Launder Money and Evade Sanctions
Washington, DC, September 24, 2020: Today, the Antiquities Coalition Financial Crimes 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.
Published on an interactive website by the Antiquities Coalition, a not-for-profit organization and non-partisan think tank, and authored by industry leaders, the report lays out documented risks facing the art market from criminal activity. In July, a bipartisan Senate investigation warned that a pair of Russian oligarchs had laundered millions through American auction houses and dealers, evading U.S. sanctions imposed on Vladimir Putin’s inner circle following his invasion of Ukraine. It was just the latest example of how criminals have exploited the $64.1 billion global art market, with serious implications for national security and economic integrity—as well as legitimate collectors, dealers, auction houses, and museums.
The Antiquities Coalition convened the Financial Crimes Task Force, the first of its kind, with leading experts in the cultural heritage, financial sector, and legal communities, as well as former law enforcement and government officials. Their report today calls for new policies, practices, and priorities to be adopted by the federal government, law enforcement, the private sector, and international institutions.
“One of the critical recommendations in the report is to extend the Bank Secrecy Act to include the art and antiquities market,” said Deborah Lehr, chairman and founder of the Antiquities Coalition. “Hundreds of millions of dollars can change hands in these transactions, but the buyer and the seller can still remain anonymous. It is important to bring some transparency to this trade.”
John Byrne, co-chair of the Task Force and former executive vice president of the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists (ACAMS), said, “Extending the Bank Secrecy Act is necessary, as lack of coverage has permitted the movement of art and antiquities as a method to hide and disguise illicit funds. Many of us have an important role to play in detecting and reporting potential illegal activity, and that industry needs to be part of this important mission.”
The Russian revelations are not the only developments giving this work urgency. While COVID-19 has cost the art world billions in losses, at the same time, auctions have continued to set record prices. Moreover, some high-risk areas of the market, like loaning money against art or antiquities as collateral, are skyrocketing even as others shut down. And, while lockdowns have shuttered above board dealers, galleries, and auction houses, the international black market has stayed wide open for business.
The full Task Force report is available on the Antiquities Coalition’s website at theantiquitiescoalition.org.
About the Antiquities Coalition
To protect our shared heritage and global security, the Antiquities Coalition is leading the international campaign against cultural racketeering, the illicit trade in ancient art and artifacts. We champion better law and policy, foster diplomatic cooperation, and advance proven solutions with public and private partners worldwide. We are working toward a future when the past is preserved for the next generation, not looted, smuggled, and sold to finance crime, conflict, and terror. Learn more at theantiquitiescoalition.org.