Safeguarding the world’s cultural heritage focus of INTERPOL symposium
LYON, France - The protection of cultural goods in crisis situations and the need for enhanced security at archaeological sites were key issues during the 8th International Symposium on the Theft of and Illicit Traffic in Works of Art, Cultural Property and Antiques.
The three-day meeting (18-20 October), co-sponsored by Switzerland, saw nearly 140 specialists from law enforcement, private institutions and international organizations from some 30 countries recognize the need for increasing the exchange of information on stolen works of art among member countries, the necessity to develop prevention measures such as the establishment of reliable inventories and the development of security mechanisms to protect cultural objects, as well as the importance for law enforcement to further invest in the fight against art forgery.
With the meeting highlighting the role of international conventions as well as the increasing trend of art forgeries, keynote speaker Jean-Luc Vez, Director General of Switzerland’s Federal Office of Police, said: “The safeguard of the world’s cultural heritage is an issue affecting all countries that requires stakeholders and law enforcement to develop a common front against crimes against our joint heritage.”
In this respect Mr Vez underlined the ‘excellent’ role played by law enforcement tools such as INTERPOL’s Stolen Works of Art database which currently contains nearly 38,000 objects provided by 123 countries.
Opening the symposium, INTERPOL Secretary General Ronald K. Noble emphasized the need for enhanced international cooperation and information exchange on stolen works of art.
“With the profits from the trafficking of stolen cultural goods sometimes serving to finance other criminal activities, the fight against the illicit traffic of cultural goods is necessary in the fight against transnational organized crime generally,” said Mr Noble.
“I would encourage all countries to share more information with INTERPOL, both to enhance our ability to fight the illicit trafficking of cultural heritage and to increase our capacity to identify investigative links with organized crime at large,” added the INTERPOL chief.
During the Symposium, delegates were updated on the PSYCHE (Protecting SYstem for Cultural HEritage) Project, led by the Italian Carabinieri for the Protection of Cultural Heritage with the support from NCB Rome and in cooperation with the INTERPOL General Secretariat, which aims at modernizing INTERPOL’s Stolen Works of Art database.
The project, for which European Union funding is being sought, will enable member countries to directly insert data and simplify the checking process through the addition of image comparison software, both of which will significantly boost the amount and quality of data on stolen works of art which can be exchanged on a global level via INTERPOL.