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All specialists know that trade in works of art can contribute to the financing of terrorism.

And it is not because the subject has been referred to the oblivion of a sadly infused media news that the question no longer arises.

In December 2021, the court in New York reached an agreement to force the famous collector Michael Steinhardt to return $ 70 million of works from looting from various archeological sites in the Middle East.

June 2020, well-known figures in the ancient world of Paris were suspected of having “laundered” stolen or looted antiques and works of art in several countries and exploited political instability and corruption: Egypt, Libya, Yemen or Syria.

Parts would have been made with the help of on-site intermediaries, the origins and history of these works would be erased and then resold legally to private individuals, but also to museums, the Louvre Abu Dhabi or the Met of New York.

Looting, money laundering, use of official networks and corruption, greed and lack of morals help fund terrorists.

During the recent conflicts in Iraq and Syria, many museums and archeological sites, some of which appear on the UNESCO World Heritage List, were destroyed, of course, by dogmatism, with the aim of erasing part of the region’s history, but also out. of simple greed, through the organization of sheer looting.

According to Jean-Charles Brisard[1]Chairman of the Center for Terrorism Analysis (CAT), trade in works of art increased even more after 2014 following the fall in Daesh’s oil revenues caused by the international coalition’s military airstrikes[2].

Daesh used two methods of financing[3]: the first consisted of carrying out the excavations directly at the controlled archaeological sites and selling the goods directly.

The second consisted of deliverance “from excavation permits to licensed traffickers” who themselves plundered the controlled archeological sites and resold the goods.

The issuance of excavation permits was accompanied by a fee[4] fluctuates between 20% and 50%[5].

Once the cultural objects had been extracted from Iraqi or Syrian soil, they were transported to neighboring countries to be exported to “international markets”. Before these items were sold, smugglers stored them “in free ports[6]», “the time when the attention of the international community is diverted”. The sale of these cultural goods has thus often taken years, and their origin is impossible to trace.[7].

Daesh would have generated “about $ 30 million” thanks to this traffic[8]. For 2015, it is a lower figure than those provided by the Russian UN ambassador, who believe heto $ 200 million[9].

On 12 February 2015, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2199, which extends the ban on trade in stolen cultural goods[10]. In France Law No. 2016-731 of 3 June 2016[11] on strengthening the fight against organized crime, terrorism and its financing has created a specific criminalization for trade in cultural goods from areas where terrorist groups operate[12].

A French art dealer may now be implicated in the possession or sale of cultural property removed from an area where terrorist groups operate.

Unable to justify the legality of the property’s origin, the defendant will incur a penalty of seven years in prison and a fine of € 100,000.[13].

The rapid increase in the circulation of works of art on the Internet and the corresponding financial flows create high risks of money laundering and terrorist financing due to the dematerialized nature of transactions and the lack of traceability of works and funds.

In fact, the market for these looted works of art is virtually non-existent in the West because of their traceability and the sanctions that dampen the enthusiasm of potential buyers.

These are often acquired by the very people who support the cause of terrorism, directly or indirectly, especially by collectors from the Middle East, who may or may not be able to use free ports, lawless areas, where they carry out all traffic well out of overview and with participation. from governments and international organizations.

[1] Brisard Jean-Charles, Martinez Damien, “The Financing of the Islamic State”, CAT, May 2015, pp. 19-20.

[2] From September 24 to October 4, 2014.

[3] “Looting of archeological sites and trade in cultural property: a method of financing terrorism”, French Center for Intelligence Research (

[4] See Taxes.

[5] S / 2016/92 – E – S / 2016/92 -Desktop (

[6] See Freeports.on

[7] ibid

[8] Ibid s19

[9] Boulard Denis, Pilliu Fabien, The Money of Terror: A Study of Human Trafficking That Finances Terrorism, First, Paris 2016, p. 150

[10] it had already been in force in Iraq since 2003

[11] 2016-731 of 3 June 2016 on strengthening the fight against organized crime, terrorism and their funding

[12] Article 322-3-2 of the Penal Code

[13] RTA-tracfin-19-20 DEF.pdf (

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