United States: Fine Arts Insurers Can Combat Terrorists' Plundering For Profit

Among the many horrors perpetrated by terrorists around the world are plundering for profit and illicit trading in looted antiquities. During a recent seminar hosted by the Clyde & Co fine arts team, two guest experts shared their experience in helping to protect cultural heritage in Middle Eastern conflict zones.

The so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is one of the terrorist organizations identified as systematically stealing antiquities and selling them illegally to fund its activities. ISIS has overseen the widespread looting of six UNESCO World Heritage sites in Syria since 2014, according to Amr Al Azm, associate professor of history and anthropology at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio. Al Azm is outspoken in calling attention to ISIS' atrocities and its agenda of severing Syria's cultural connections to its past. In 2015, ISIS destroyed the ancient Roman ruins in the Syrian city of Palmyra.

Destruction of cultural treasures is only part of ISIS' sinister plan, however. The G7 (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom) estimates that ISIS has raised tens of millions of dollars from looted Syrian antiquities.

Speaking together at the seminar, Matthew Bogdanos, an assistant district attorney in New York and colonel in the United States Marine Corps Reserves, and Al Azm emphasized that the insurance industry can play a significant role in deterring this illicit trade and helping to identify stolen goods.

Colonel Bogdanos, who became a prosecutor in 1988 after serving in the Marines, returned to active duty after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He was stationed with an inter-agency task force in Iraq and Afghanistan and oversaw the investigation into the looting of the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad. He said plundered antiquities tend to take a well-used path from theft to sale on the international market. To aid in their authentication, some items may take many years to come into the market. In addition, other items are cut into pieces, in a manner that retains value but enables them to be smuggled separately and perhaps be less recognizable to inspectors. The pieces can then be reunited over time and the item "restored" and sold anew, often years after the initial looting.

Spotting red flags

Dealers, auction houses and collectors, together with the insurance industry, each have a role to play in identifying looted antiquities and helping to prevent their ongoing sale, Al Azm and Bogdanos said. Due diligence red flag indicators that should trigger suspicion include:

  • Does the piece have a documented provenance? If not, is there any other way to establish its history? For example, is there an historical photograph of the piece? How old is the photo? Is it digital? As a rule, the higher the item's value, the more likely it is to have been photographed during its collection life. If the earliest photo is relatively new, this is a potential red flag.
  • Is its provenance documentation pre-1970? If yes, check the documentation thoroughly for authenticity. Prior to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, there was no set of uniform international rules dealing with the recovery and return of illegally exported or stolen cultural property. Documented provenance post-1970 is more likely.
  • Has it crossed any international borders? Lawfully exported valuable antiquities cannot simply appear in another country; they must have proper customs declarations and possibly export permits to cross borders legally.
  • Has the piece been insured before? If yes, where is the paperwork?
  • How did the present owner come to possess it? Has it been named in a catalog and its provenance documented, and is the provenance plausible? For example, something catalogued as "From a 19th century French collection" is unlikely to provide proper provenance on its own.
  • What is the item's condition? If a statue has cuts below the shoulders and hips, or has nicks consistent with a power tool, there's a good chance it's stolen.
  • What's the item's country of origin and the date it appeared on the market? If these correspond with wars or conflicts, there's a good chance the item was looted.

In addition to these potential red flags, items should be checked under an ultraviolet light. Increasingly, a traceable liquid, known as "SmartWater" but unrelated to the beverage brand owned by the Coca-Cola Company, is being used to mark and track antiquities. SmartWater marks items with a green dye that is visible only under UV light. Dealers, auction houses and collectors should also be aware of patrimony dates for individual countries through the patrimony law listed on the UNESCO website, as any antiquities appearing on the market after these dates should trigger suspicion and warrant detailed provenance checking.

Insurers also have a part to play in checking that their insureds have sufficient and documented due diligence procedures before coverage is in place. Apart from the moral obligation to try to end illicit trafficking of antiquities, insurers and others may well also have a legal obligation to report suspected looting under the UK Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. Awareness and prompt action by insurers and others that touch the global fine arts market can reduce the risk of loss of cultural heritage.

Fine Arts Insurers Can Combat Terrorists' Plundering For Profit

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

Disclaimer

Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Emails

From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

*** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.