October 21, 2008

Operation Syenite will clamp down on looted Afghan artefact trade

Posted at 12:45 pm in Similar cases

Through the country’s almost perpetual status as a war zone in recent years, Afghanistan’s heritage has suffered greatly at the hands of looters. Many of the artefacts taken from the country, then end up on sale through art dealers & auction houses in the West. Operation Syenite is the name being given to a new initiative in Britain, which hopes to focus on this problem. The largest part of the problems though, as it has been throughout history, is that there will always be unscrupulous collectors who are willing to purchase the looted artefacts by whatever means. Whilst there remains a market for the looters to sell to, it seems likely that the looting will continue in some form.

Daily Telegraph

Police to clamp down on trade in looted Afghan art
Last Updated: 12:01am BST 21/10/2008

Police to clamp down on trade in looted Afghan art Unscrupulous art galleries that deal in looted Afghan art could face prosecution under a new police initiative.

The Metropolitan Police has just started Operation Syenite to clamp down on the sale of art stolen from Afghanistan.

Many thousands of pieces went missing from the Afghanistan National Museum in Kabul in the 1990s, and many have worked their way to London auction houses and galleries.

Last month the International Council of Museums (ICOM) launched an official “Red List of Afghanistan Antiquities at Risk”, detailing certain types of pre-Islamic and Islamic artefacts banned from export and sale under Afghan legislation.

Thousands of looted items have already been impounded to be returned to Afghanistan, according to the police force.

Now 12 volunteer ‘ArtBeat’ special constables drawn from the art world, including one at the British Museum, will help the Met’s Art and Antiques Unit police the industry.

On Monday they started visiting art dealers, auction houses, museums and collectors across London to “raise awareness” about the stolen Afghan items.

A Met spokesman warned: “As the operation develops, the Met’s Art and Antiques Unit hopes to see an increased intelligence flow on where these items are coming from and going to.

“If industry fails to heed officer’s warnings about the purchasing of these items, then the officers will move on to consider specific intelligence led operations to enforce the law.”

Detective Sergeant Vernon Rapley from the Met’s Art and Antiques Unit added: “The message is clear, do not purchase any Afghan antiquities without clear title and established provenance.”

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