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The Antiquities Coalition Applauds House Resolution on Financial Crimes and Cultural Racketeering

March 21, 2019

WASHINGTON, DC (March 21, 2019) – The Antiquities Coalition commends the House of Representatives for its continuing action to ensure the $26.6 billion American art market is not misused by criminals and violent extremists.

On March 13, the House of Representatives passed H. Res. 206, which warns that the “lack of sunlight and transparency” in industries like the art and antiquities market poses “a threat to our national security and our economy’s security,” while supporting efforts to close these  “loopholes that allow corruption, terrorism, and money laundering to infiltrate our country’s financial system.”

Res 206 highlights one loophole in particular: art and antiquities dealers are currently exempt from the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), which requires certain businesses to assist the U.S. government in detecting and preventing financial crimes, even though “Federal authorities have cautioned […] art collectors and dealers to be particularly careful trading Near Eastern antiquities,” since “artifacts plundered by terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant are entering the marketplace.”

Additionally, the resolution directly quotes the Antiquities Coalition in asserting that “because the United States is the largest destination for archaeological and ethnological objects from around the world, the discovery of recently looted and trafficked artifacts in our country not only makes Americans and our institutions accessories to crimes, but also threatens our relations with other countries.”

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, sponsored H. Res. 206. In presenting the resolution on the House floor, she highlighted the need for increased transparency in the art market:

We know that ethnic and cultural artifacts are stolen and traded to garner funds for bad actors. According to the Antiquities Coalition, “the United States is the largest destination for archaeological and ethnological objects from around the world.” We know, too, that terror groups like ISIS have looted and sold these treasures to fund their operations, which the head of UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural heritage agency, said was worth millions of dollars and conducted at an “industrial scale.” However, today, dealers in arts and antiquities are exempt from the Bank Secrecy Act, creating a huge loophole for bad actors to launder funds.

The Antiquities Coalition appreciates that Chairwoman Waters, the House Financial Services Committee, and the entire House of Representatives are working to address the troubling connection between cultural racketeering and financial crimes like money laundering and terrorist financing. This resolution builds on last year’s efforts by the House to remove art and antiquities dealers’ current exemption from the BSA through the Illicit Art and Antiquities Trafficking Protection Act (H.R. 5886). Click here to learn more about this bill and why its recommendations are needed.