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.
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;
- Stolen Libyan items.
Further resources are also available on this website:
- The latest INTERPOL posters showing the most wanted works of art.
- Object ID: the international standard for describing cultural objects, in order to facilitate their identification;
- Frequently asked questions.
We work in close partnership with other international organizations, such as:
- United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO);
- International Council of Museums (ICOM);
- United Nations Organization for Drugs and Crime (UNODC);
- World Customs Organization (WCO).
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.
Stop heritage crime - Joint Polish-Norwegian project on legal and illicit trade with cultural heritage
Sculptures stolen in Palmyra, Syria
Most wanted works of art, December 2016
- Access to the stolen works of art database (for authorized users only: once you have logged in, go to the ‘My Profile’ link at the top of the page and select the database from the list of options)
- Application form
- User guide (PDF) / User guide (PowerPoint)
WARNING! Deletion of inactive user accounts
Accounts that have not been used for a period of one year will be deleted. We advise you to log in on a regular basis in order to keep your account active.
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.