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March 3, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2011: Paolo Giorgio Ferri Asks "Are Penal Procedures Only a Last Resort?"

In the Fall 2011 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, Paolo Giorgio Ferri asks "Are Penal Procedures Only a Last Resort?" He writes:
It is a share experience that in the art market some publicized and well-targeted penal procedures versus art dealers, auction houses, museum curators and/or others involved in this trade have strong deterrent effects. This happens mostly because of the people interested in and of their high status. And the intensification of investigations in the national and international field, which will very likely lead to the limiting of illegal purchases, especially with reference to those known as the “major purchasers” will be carefully assessed by the professionals who will reduce their demands in proportion to the investigative capacity of the public institutions. 
In this respect, one should recall the Italy’s recent initiatives through the criminal law -considered sometimes as primary tool in the protection of the Italian cultural heritage- which have had an impact on the markets, especially abroad (for instance, these initiatives triggered an ample process of return by U.S. museums, and nowadays Italian cultural items of uncertain provenance are less attractive objects of exchange). 
However, it now behooves me to underline that the adequacy of a given judicial space appears to be of vital importance not only for the cultural heritage of a single nation, but also for all the other countries, -at least- of the same cultural area. It is a known fact that the criminals acting in this sector take advantage of the weak links in the various systems, exporting and even using for the various systems of triangular trading the legal systems most permeable to illegal trafficking. And then from them, sending the cultural objects also to those countries where protection is effective and congruous. In fact, this process of laundering antiquities is highly facilitated by jurisdictions without any or insufficient regulation of the antiquities market, or by failure to enforce the existing legislation.

Paolo Giorgio Ferri is a retired Prosecutor for the Republic of Italy who played an integral role in the return of looted antiquities illicitly exported from Italy and sold to North American public and private collections. He served as the lead attorney for the Museum and the J. Paul Getty Museum and its former curator of antiquities, Marion True. Presently he serves as an international expert in cultural goods juridical problems for the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage.

You may read this article via subscription to The Journal of Art Crime.