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UN Missions and Agencies Discuss Cultural Racketeering’s Links to Terrorism

June 17, 2024

The Mission of Norway to the UN, the Mission of France to the UN, the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, UNESCO, and The Soufan Center (TSC) at a convening in New York City to discuss “Investigating and Prosecuting the Destruction, Looting and Illicit Trade of Cultural Property Linked to Terrorism.” 

This closed-door policy event featured speakers from the organizing groups as well as the Penn Cultural Heritage Center, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Carabinieri TPC, the University of Kufa, and the Clooney Foundation for Justice. 

Together, experts highlight the need for prosecution for these serious crimes that threaten our shared heritage, national economies, and global security.

As an organization which has long advocated for accountability for crimes against culture, the Antiquities Coalition was pleased to be in attendance at this important discussion and to hear speakers affirm the need for prosecution for these serious crimes that threaten cultural heritage and–in some cases– finance terrorism.

Key takeaways included:

  • Cultural heritage crimes are not victimless. They have documented links to funding terrorism and organized crime. However, they are often high-reward and low risk, making them a lucrative and convenient option for bad actors.
  • Those engaged in these crimes see seizures, forfeitures, and repatriations as the cost of doing business. In one anecdote provided during the discussion, public legal trouble improved a traffickers business, as buyers knew their goods were authentic.
  • Only convictions—including of market actors who provide demand—will affect change. Art dealers, auction houses, and collectors who knowingly engage in illegal transactions must be also held accountable in order to fight cultural racketeering. Learn more about the role law enforcement plays in combating art and antiquities trafficking.

The AC thanks the organizers and speakers for this important discussion.

Read the full report from the Soufan Center on this topic: 

For more information, read the Clooney Foundation for Justice’s 2022 Report on the Need for Prosecuting Participants in the Illegal Antiquities Trade: