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;
  • Stolen Libyan 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

Objects stolen from Mosul Museum, Iraq

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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.