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The Pandora Papers: AC Featured in the Washington Post

October 25, 2021

The Washington Post explores the impact of the Pandora Papers after their release, thanks to their collaboration with a team of investigative journalists.

Following the release of the Pandora Papers, the Washington Post reached out to Tess Davis, Executive Director of the Antiquities Coalition, for her expert opinion. An article highlights a study of nearly 30 years of auctions at Sotheby’s published by Davis found that 70% of the relics sold had no listed ownership history. These numbers display the indifference and even ignorance museums and art buyers often hold towards evidence of artifact theft.

Highlighting the fact that many museums have been complicit in supporting looting and trafficking, the investigative journalists have brought to light the problem of cultural racketeering around the world. One of the notorious art dealers who played a large role in the illicit trade was the late Douglas Latchford, an antiquities dealer known for funding the looting and trafficking of Cambodian relics.

“Accusations against Latchford … have been a matter of legal record for nearly 10 years now,” said Tess Davis, a lawyer, archaeologist and the executive director of the Antiquities Coalition, an organization that campaigns against the trafficking of cultural artifacts. “Museum leaders have had more than enough time to do the right thing. Instead, there is deafening silence.”

Though Latchford alleged countless times that his actions were in the name of reverence for Khmer, he supported and profited from decades of ransacking of Cambodian heritage sites. The looting and trafficking of these ancient relics has been found to be one of the “most devastating cultural thefts of the 20th century,” according to the Washington Post. However, museums have yet to take serious action to take accountability for purchasing from and, effectively, funding the actions of cultural racketeers.

“The Met owed it to Cambodia — and itself — to do a full and public accounting of its Khmer collection then. That didn’t happen,” Davis said. ”There has still been no full and public accounting from the Met. It’s never too late to do the right thing, but what is the Met waiting for at this point?”

Read more in the Washington Post >>

The Washington Post also dove deep into the public responses to the release of the Pandora Papers by museums around the world, namely, the Denver Art Museum’s return of artifacts.