Works of art

The illicit traffic in cultural heritage is a transnational crime that affects the countries of origin, transit and final destination. The illicit trade in works of art is sustained by the demand from the arts market, the opening of borders, the improvement in transport systems and the political instability of certain countries.

Over the past decade we have seen an increasing trend of illicit trafficking in cultural objects from counties in the Middle East affected by armed conflict. The black market in works of art is becoming as lucrative as those for drugs, weapons and counterfeit goods.

In February 2015, the United Nations Security Council approved Resolution 2199, calling for countries to take appropriate steps to prevent the trade in stolen Iraqi and Syrian cultural property. It also recognized the global role of INTERPOL in addressing this illicit trade.

At INTERPOL, we are working to raise awareness of the problem among the relevant organizations and the general public. We encourage not only police, but also art and antiques dealers and owners of works of art to play an active role in the exchange of information. This combined action will strengthen our efforts to curb the erosion of our cultural heritage.

International data

The efficient exchange of data is central to these efforts. INTERPOL’s database of stolen works of art is a key tool, accessible to law enforcement agencies and other authorized users across the world.

In addition, certain types of data can be accessed openly by the general public:

  • The most recent stolen works of art reported to INTERPOL;
  • Recovered works of art;
  • Works of art that have been recovered but remain unclaimed by their owners;
  • Stolen Afghan items;
  • Stolen Iraqi items;
  • Stolen Syrian items.

Further resources are also available on this website:

We work in close partnership with other international organizations, such as:

National police services

Romanian Police: database of stolen works of art (in Romanian only)

Latvian e-service: for owners and holders of cultural objects to record details of their objects, to be provided to police in case of theft.

Latvia : how to determine the status of a cultural object

Art stolen in Republic of Korea

Stop heritage crime - Joint Polish-Norwegian project on legal and illicit trade with cultural heritage

27 September 2015

Global initiative launched to counter the destruction and trafficking of cultural property by terrorist and organized crime groups

13 July 2015

Egyptian authorities seize guns, drugs and stolen art in operation targeting illicit goods

28 April 2015

INTERPOL Chief pledges continued support to protect cultural heritage

11 March 2015

International meeting at INTERPOL aims to better protect cultural heritage

18 February 2013

Bhutan hosts international conference on protection of cultural property in Asia co-organized with INTERPOL

18 February 2013

INTERPOL to support global action plan for rehabilitation of Mali’s cultural sites

01 February 2013

INTERPOL calls on international support for the preservation of cultural heritage in Mali

22 January 2013

Appeal following aggravated theft of art from house in Belgium

13 November 2012

Protection of cultural property focus of Bhutan Police Chief visit to INTERPOL

25 October 2012

INTERPOL holds first conference addressing growing problem of counterfeit art

16 October 2012

INTERPOL issues alert following theft of paintings from Kunsthal Museum in The Netherlands

08 October 2012

Philippines hosts INTERPOL workshop on the prevention of illicit trafficking in cultural property

21 May 2012

INTERPOL calls for vigilance on looting of ancient mosaics in Syria

02 March 2012

Cultural property crime focus of international expert meeting at INTERPOL

27 February 2012

Armed robbery at Ancient Olympia Museum in Greece

17 February 2012

Theft of three paintings by Brueghel from private home in Belgium

23 January 2012

Theft of Picasso and other paintings from National Art Gallery in Athens

16 December 2011

Coin dealers alerted by INTERPOL over illegal sales of ancient Roman treasures

21 October 2011

Safeguarding the world’s cultural heritage focus of INTERPOL symposium

12 October 2011

Appeal following theft of artwork by Magritte in Belgium

22 September 2011

INTERPOL issues alert following disappearance of cultural goods in Libya

14 April 2011

Meeting of INTERPOL's Experts Group on Stolen Cultural Property focuses on information sharing

17 March 2011

INTERPOL underlines role of concerted action at UNESCO forum on cultural heritage trafficking

23 February 2011

Four works of art stolen in Ajaccio, Corsica, France

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Fighting illicit traffic of cultural property in Southeast Europe

Video provided by the Culture Unit of the UNESCO Venice Office on the illicit traffic of cultural property in the specific region of Southeast Europe.