The Belgian Federal police have decided to eliminate its specialised art and antiques police unit, the Service vols organisés, Art et Antiquités, au sein de la Direction de la lutte contre la criminalité contre les biens (DJB) which has been dedicated to the fight against illicit trafficking in cultural property.
The Brussels Judicial Police established its art crime unit, “the Bureau of Art and Antiques in 1988. After a reorganisation in 2001 the team was integrated into the Federal Judicial Police at the national level under the name “Section ART” At that time seven officers were assigned.
In 2006 the specialised squad consisted of five active Belgian federal police inspectors. In 2016 only two officers remained, one of whom is responsible for maintaining the Belgium’s ARTIST database which includes works of art stolen in Belgium. At last count, this database contained some 20,000 object records.
According to the Belgian Radio and Television of the French Community Service the specialised unit is being dismantled due to budgetary constraints. Given that Belgium's International Trade in Works of art topped €104.3 million in Imports and €63.1 million in exports in 2010 this decision is a blow to a major EU art market shareholder in their country's fight against illegal trafficking.