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Customs and Police Partners to museums in the fight against the illicit traffic in cultural property

Theft in museums and thelooting of archaeological sites serve to sustain international traffic in cultural property. Museums cannot act against this on their own. The fight that ICOM has been leading in the field for a number of years should be supported by close collaboration with police and customs officers.

On Tuesday, 25th January 2000, in Brussels, the Secretary General of ICOM signed a memorandum of understanding with the World Customs Organisation (WCO) to cooperate over the fight against the illicit traffic in cultural property.

On 11th April 2000 an official agreement for cooperation has also been signed with INTERPOL.

The agreement that has just been signed with the WCO marks an important step forward in the fight against the illicit traffic in cultural property. Indeed, the question of trafficking transcends borders. Within the competence of each national administration, customs departments can greatly contribute to the fight. In the same way, strengthened cooperation between the authorities responsible for heritage and the police authorities, as much at the national as the international level, should mean increased police efficiency. The signing of the agreements will strengthen cooperation between the three organisations both officially and in practical terms. It testifies to the awareness of international customs and police authorities as to the whole question of the illicit traffic in cultural property. Joint projects should soon be up and running, including the preparation of tools for raising awareness, the setting up of training programmes for customs officers, and the distribution to customs and police departments the world over of ICOM information on illicit traffic (the One Hundred Missing Objects collection and the Red List).


Updated: 6 June 2005