May 2, 2011

Monday, May 02, 2011 - No comments

Osama bin Laden and Smuggling Antiquities -- as reported by Stolen Vermeer's Turbo Paul, the Art Newspaper, Matthew Bogdanos in the Associated Press, and (almost a decade ago) Wall Street Journal Reporter Daniel Pearl (Himself Kidnapped and Murdered by al Qaeda)

WSJ Reporter Daniel Pearl
 wrote about smuggled gems  funding
 al Qaeda months before his death
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

The news of the death of Osama bin Laden and his burial at sea prompted a curiosity about any relationship between terrorism and the trafficking of antiquities. "Googling" the subject found interesting "fragments" of information supporting the overall perception that the smuggling of antiquities (and precious gems) does fund terrorism:
The blog, Stolen Vermeer, has a very elaborate discussion about Osama bin Laden, the operation that succeeded in tracking him down and killing him, and includes some graphic photos not recommended for all audiences. The author, "Turbo Paul", was featured as a highly-charged character in Rebecca Dreyfus' 2009 documentary, Stolen, about the 1990 theft of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. 
The Art Newspaper reported in January 2010 that "9/11 hijacker attempted to sell Afghan loot" to pay for lessons to fly an airplane. 
In 2008, the Associated Press reported that U.S. Marine Reserve Colonel Matthew Bogdanos said that the link between trafficking in antiquities and terrorism was "undeniable" and that looted objects from the National Museum in Baghdad helped to finance al Qaeda in Iraq.   
An earlier post from June 2001 in The Art Newspaper, prior to the September bombing of American planes and targets, specifically identifies the types of objects that may have been involved in funding terrorist activities. 
In a rather poignant article by Wall Street Reporters Daniel Pearl (kidnapped and beheaded by Al Quaeda in February 2002) and Robert Block titled "Underground Trade: Much-Smuggled Gem Called Tanzanite Helps Bin Laden Supporters" in which a Tanzanian government official is quoted as saying that the "smuggling of rough stones" "through Kenya to the bazaars of the Middle East" "are connected to Osama bin Laden."
For more information about the reaction to the death of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, you may read about it on the front page of the Los Angeles Times or online here as reported from New York by Geraldine Baum, Nathaniel Popper, and Tina Susman, my former colleague at The Daily Aztec at San Diego State University.