FBI Warns Dealers, Collectors About Terrorist Loot

On Aug. 26th the following announcement was made:

The FBI is alerting art collectors and dealers to be particularly careful trading Near Eastern antiquities, warning that artifacts plundered by terrorist organizations such as ISIL are entering the marketplace.

“We now have credible reports that U.S. persons have been offered cultural property that appears to have been removed from Syria and Iraq recently,” said Bonnie Magness-Gardiner, manager of the FBI’s Art Theft Program.

The Bureau is asking U.S. art and antiquities market leaders to spread the word that preventing illegally obtained artifacts from reaching the market helps stem the transfer of funds to terrorists.

In a single-page document titled ISIL Antiquities Trafficking, the FBI asks leaders in the field to disseminate the following message:

  • Please be cautious when purchasing items from this region. Keep in mind that antiquities from Iraq remain subject to Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctions under the Iraq Stabilization and Insurgency Sanctions Regulations (31 CFR part 576).
  • Purchasing an object looted and/or sold by the Islamic State may provide financial support to a terrorist organization and could be prosecuted under 18 USC 233A.
  • Robust due diligence is necessary when purchasing any Syrian or Iraqi antiquities or other cultural property in the U.S. or when purchasing elsewhere using U.S. funds.

In February, the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 2199, which obligates member states to take steps to prevent terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria from receiving donations and from benefiting from trade in oil, antiquities, and hostages.

Before purchasing an item from suspected areas, ask questions and verify:

  • Which country did this come from?
  • Do you have the proper paperwork?
  • What is the provenance or history of the object’s ownership?

Check stolen object databases.  Proceed with caution.  For the full article and links to important resources:  ISIL and Antiquities Trafficking

AVOIDING ART FORGERIES

Magnifying glass image
Appraiser’s Magnifying Glass

Artfixdaily published an article this week titled “Feds Investigate Possible Forgeries of Modern Art“.  It describes how modernist paintings from a supposed anonymous private collection were sold to prominent New York galleries, and are now being investigated by the FBI as possible forgeries.  Some of the works being questioned include paintings by Pollack, Rothko, Motherwell and Diebenkorn.  A more extensive article on the subject was in the New York Times titled “Possible Forging of Modern Art is Investigated”.

Fakes and forgeries have been fooling people for centuries.  Here are some things to do prior to buying an expensive work of art.  Many of these points can be applied to antiques, collectibles and other high-end purchases.

1) Consider contacting an art consultant or appraiser to evaluate the piece.
2) Check the provenance.  Pieces with no history of ownership or from anonymous collections should raise a red flag.
3) Check the catalog raisonne’ to see if the piece is listed.
4) Contact a known expert on the artist or an authentication board.
5) Check art loss registers for clear title.
6) Have scientific testing done if necessary.
7) Buy from respected dealers who provide complete documentation and a money back guarantee.

Don’t forget, if it seems too good to be true…… it probably is.