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Links between terrorism, crime and trafficking in cultural property / antiquities


Key facts

Campbell suggests that a four-stage network supply chain model may be broadly applied to the global trafficking of antiquities and is built on an internal structure that varies depending on geography, laws, economy, and cultural views on antiquities (Campbell, 2013). The stages are: (i) the looting occurs, most often in an area where conflict exists or that is economically depressed; (ii) early-stage middlemen/intermediaries specializing in the procurement and transit of illicit antiquities/cultural property work with organized criminal groups to traffic the objects from the source countries; (iii) a late stage intermediary launders the objects after transit, creates export licenses and false provenance and then brings the objects to the legitimate global market; (iv) the objects enter the legal market via international brokers in the transit country, or arrive in the hands of the collector.

Researchers from the University of Glasgow and the Antiquities Coalition developed a model that is more formal and places an emphasis on hierarchies within criminal groups (MacKenzie & Davis, 2014). This model, summarized, includes: (i) a regional broker organizes a looting at a source location and delivers an artefact to a regional trade hub; (ii) organized criminal groups purchase the objects from brokers and deliver them to a border city; (iii) a receiver takes the artefact to a major city; (iv) an "internationally connected dealer" who works in both the illicit and licit antique trades sells the artefact. Illicitly traded antiquities and cultural property have been identified on eBay (Hardy, 2016), in famous museums (Casey, 2017), as well as in private collections (Feuer, 2017).

Terrorist groups seem to have increasingly taken up trafficking in illicit antiquities and cultural property to fund their operations, support recruits and acquire weapons. According to Shelley, antiquities are not only a source of revenue generation for terrorists, but they also have symbolic value (Shelley, 2014). By destroying and/or removing symbolic representations of culture, terrorist groups effectively undermine the State/nationalism and attack the morale of local populations/peoples through a type of "cultural cleansing" (Sridharan, 2014). 

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