Docket, an initiative of the Clooney Foundation for Justice, provided evidence collected during its investigations to special judicial authorities in Europe and the United States.
The shock wave triggered by accusations for complicity in fraud and money laundering by former Louvre president Jean-Luc Martinez, who is suspected of involvement in a vast network of trafficking of antiquities, does not end with not entering the world of archeology, museology. and the prestigious trade in ancient art.
The suspicions against him are directly related to the gradual dismantling of an international network, which is supposed to have taken advantage of the war and unrest situations following the Arab Spring, to smuggle goods from various countries into the Middle East. . then laundered and sold illegally in Europe and the United States. This sector is branching, specifically in Belgium, as announced by Match in Paris.
It is in this context that an investigation report has now been made public that should make noise and feed current and future legal proceedings, related to the trafficking of cultural assets including Unesco and other international that organization agreed that it had reached a scale not seen since World War II. This report, presented in Washington, came from The Docket, an initiative of the Clooney Foundation for Justice, created by George and Amal Clooney.
For more than two years, The Docket’s investigations have targeted transnational networks responsible for the theft and smuggling of thousands of artifacts from the Middle East and North Africa. The conclusion is clear: the illicit trade in these objects funded armed groups, terrorism, conflicts and the crimes resulting from them in these regions. “Theft of antiquities is often considered a victimless crime, but this is far from the case”assured Anya Neistat, the legal director of The Docket, who also gave an exclusive interview with Paris Match Belgium.
This extensive investigation aims to dismantle these criminal networks and bring to justice not only the traffickers, but also European and North American dealers who deliberately participated in the illegal business of so -called “antiques. of blood “. The Docket report is based on hundreds of testimonies, including archaeologists and cultural heritage specialists, journalists, magistrates and investigators, policy makers, academics, but also victims from communities. affected by theft and individuals involved in illicit trafficking. Anya Neistat’s team has also conducted several missions in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey. Investigations in this field have been combined with extensive research, including review of social media and satellite imagery, as well as review of hundreds of academic publications covering all aspects of the parallel antiquities trade.
Belgium on the map of underground circuits
The report shows that antiquities stolen from Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen are reaching Western markets through complex networks including smugglers, merchants, middlemen and brokers in North Africa, the Middle East, the Gulf countries, in Asia, in Eastern Europe and in the Horn of Africa. By following these routes, The Docket was able to gather information showing connections between major antiquities sellers operating in Europe and North America and raided sites in war zones. Belgium’s involvement in these underground circuits has been confirmed and documented.
The evidence collected was provided to the competent police service in Europe and the United States. This should allow them to sue the antiques sellers for heavier charges, if any. They can include complicity in war crimes and the financing of terrorism.
Docket has detailed information on numerous incidents of theft of cultural objects committed in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen during recent conflicts. In most cases, it was able to establish which armed groups controlled the areas when these raids took place.
“Trafficking will continue to fund the activities of terrorist groups as long as there is an unregulated global market for illicit antiques, where dealers operate with impunity”Anya Neistat warned. “Only criminal prosecutions that expose the connection between traders, war crimes and terrorism will put an end to this illegal trade, prevent further theft and the destruction of cultural heritage.”