Europa and latin america / Cooperation between justice systems

New cooperation tools to investigate trafficking in cultural property

23 June 2020
Tráfico de bienes culturales

Organised by the EL PAcCTO cooperation between justice systems component on Tuesday 16 June, the webinar was held on illicit trafficking in cultural property. Representatives from the Public Prosecutor’s Offices from eleven partner countries on the programme participated: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay along with the Environment, Historical Heritage and Town Planning Department with the Seville Provincial Prosecutor’s Office.

The webinar also saw contributions from representatives from the Central Operating Unit’s Crimes against Heritage Group, the Heritage Analysis Group and the Department of Criminal Analysis, which is part of the Crimes against Historical Heritage and Illicit Traffic in Cultural Assets Section with the Judicial Police Technical Unit (UTPJ), all of them part of the Spanish Civil Guard.

Representatives from the the Spanish National Police Historical Heritage Brigade and the ´Nucleo Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturalle´ with the Italian Carabinieri also participated. Other specialists on the subject who joined the webinar were representatives from the INTERPOL National Central Office and the Mexican Federal Police, the Centro Mexicano de Derecho Uniforme, the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT) and the Panamanian Ministry of Culture – National Historical Heritage Directorate.

Tools to investigate trafficking in cultural property

The coordinator of the EL PAcCTO Cooperation Between Justice Systems component, Antonio Roma, highlighted in his presentation the “great importance of the subject matter and the innovative nature of the work that EL PAcCTO has begun, with the aim of giving greater importance to the fight against this type of crime and contribute to developing tools that allow crimes against cultural heritage to be investigated, with special attention on the illicit trafficking in cultural property”.

Tools that are useful for members of public prosecutors’ offices and the police, and also useful for members of the judicial, customs and cultural authorities. In addition, he recalled how, in the Latin American sphere, cultural heritage constitutes an object of particular interest due to its importance for identity, and how the attacks on assets in which this crime manifests itself are quickly taken up by the media throughout the region.

Valeria Roxana Calaza, the deputy director general of the administrative area in the Argentine Public Prosecutor’s Office – the Prosecutor’s Office for Economic Criminality and Money Laundering (PROCELAC), presented the research and analysis paper Diagnosis of the Situation and Tools in the Fight Against Crimes involving the Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Goods” that she undertook within the framework of her collaboration as an expert on the EL PAcCTO programme in 2019.

Conclusions of the webinar

  1. The need to develop common rules to protect cultural heritage with unified types of crime between countries that enable the, until now, very complicated international restitution of objects.
  2. The need to improve international judicial cooperation mechanisms, such as the processing of letters rogatory on the matter.
  3. The need for adequate records, inventories, catalogues, databases detailing the pieces and for provenance documents with minimum requirements for cultural property.
  4. The need to strengthen cooperation networks, both formal and informal, promoting contact between countries and organisations in other countries.
  5. The need for greater use of special investigative techniques (controlled consignment, undercover agents).
  6. The need, because of the link between this traffic and money laundering, for certain parties engaged in the purchase and sale of art to be obliged to report to the competent authorities.

Following these conclusions, El PAcCTO undertakes to carry out an update on the “Diagnosis of the Situation and the Tools in the Fight Against Crimes in the Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Goods”, expanding the number of countries analysed and adding the relevant national and international jurisdictional rulings in the field.