Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Antiquities Dealers, Asked for Help from FBI in Identifying Law-Breaking Dealers, Respond with Laughs

A sobering account here of a meeting between FBI agents and the Antique Tribal Art Dealers Association. The attitude of dealers in Native American antiquities, at least, appears to be to laugh at the law as it stands. When asked to help law enforcement identify major players in the illicit trade, the response of dealers is jeers. That is hardly likely to endear the FBI to these folks. If I were in the FBI I would leave that meeting steamed and ready to do some more investigating. If I were a responsible dealer I would be looking for some way to deal with the problem of looting that prompts law enforcement to go after dealers in the first place. Legalizing looting of Native American sites is not going to happen. The licit trade needs to develop structures to make it as difficult as possible for illicit pieces to enter the market. As I have suggested on many occasions, the best policy here would be one whereby the licit trade agreed to a tax and reporting system on sales over a threshold price, with proceeds directed at beefing up the number of Park Service police to prevent the looting in the first place.

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