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Multi-Stakeholder Initiative Launched to Combat Financial Crimes via Art and Antiquities

April 16, 2019

Allies from the Financial, Legal, Law Enforcement, and Art Market Communities Lay Roadmap for Action

Hollywood, FL (April 16, 2019)—Today the Antiquities Coalition launched its new Financial Crimes Task Force, a multi-stakeholder initiative aimed to protect the $26.6 billion U.S. art market from criminals and violent extremists.

The Task Force, the first of its kind, unites leaders from the art, legal, and banking sectors, as well as former law enforcement and government officials. This diverse group of experts will work together in the coming months to develop concrete recommendations for combating a wide range of crimes, including money laundering, forgery, fraud, and terrorist financing, via art and antiquities. The task force was announced at the 14th annual international conference of the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists (ACAMS), the world’s largest financial crime prevention community.

This cross-industry initiative aims to increase transparency and communication between art market stakeholders, including financial institutions, law enforcement, legal professionals, ancillary services, art dealers, and auction houses, and other impacted parties.  The task force will identify and issue concrete typologies for how the financial industry can counter the use of art and antiquities in facilitating criminal activity, and work both with individual task force members and the wider community to achieve implementation. The initiative is chaired by John Byrne, Vice Chairman of AML RightSource and Senior Advisor to the ACAMS Advisory Board, Deborah Lehr, Antiquities Coalition Chairman and Founder, and Dennis Lormel, President of DML Associates LLC and former Senior Executive at the FBI. As the project progresses, the task force will spotlight individual members, but is presently seeking additional assistance from the various aforementioned communities.

“The fight against this illicit trade must cross borders and disciplines,” says Lehr, “and since our organization’s beginning, a key priority has been shutting the U.S. market to illicit antiquities, while encouraging responsible trade practices.”

The United States remains the world’s largest art market, valued at a $26.6 billion, and accounting for 44% of the global total in 2018. Furthermore, art and collectible wealth held by ultra-high-net-worth individuals is predicted to grow from an estimated $1.62 trillion in 2016 to $2.7 trillion in 2026. Such rapid growth, coupled with weak regulation, has made the art market increasingly attractive to criminals adept at exploiting legal and regulatory regimes.

Byrne adds: “Ancient art and antiquities can serve as sound investments, but they also carry a risk of supporting nefarious activity and compromising consumers. Working together won’t dampen competition or erode bottom lines. Instead, it can help make businesses overall more resilient and profitable.”

This efforts builds on similar initiatives by the Antiquities Coalition, including the #CultureUnderThreat Task Force, whose 2016 report, #CultureUnderThreat: Recommendations for the U.S. Government, called for new policies, practices, and priorities for U.S. policymakers, the international community, and the art market to reduce heritage destruction and looting, end impunity for the illicit trade in cultural patrimony, and sever this key source of funding for violent extremist groups. ACAMS is also a leading voice in the worldwide struggle to end trafficking of all kinds, and has led the financial industry’s efforts to combat human trafficking. The Antiquities Coalition is grateful for the organization’s leadership in tackling this threat to our shared heritage, markets, and international security.