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December 23, 2016

Italy prepares to introduce tougher sanctions to combat art crime

Often ahead of the game when it comes to having a low tolerance for art crimes, Italy is about to get tougher still by adapting its current criminal legislation on crimes against cultural heritage.

During a press conference held on Friday at the inauguration of the reopening of the House of the Faun at Pompeii, the Italian Minister of Culture Dario Franceschini and the country's new Prime Minister, Paolo Gentiloni, announced that Italy was perched to crack down further on a variety of art and heritage related crimes, something it has been valiently trying to accomplish in legislation originally pushed for by General B(a) CC Roberto Conforti, the (now) retired Commander of the del Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale.

Based on a revised proposal submitted by the Minister of Justice Andrea Orlando and Mr. Franceschini, Italy's Council of Ministers, has approved a bill today that will be tabled in Parliament to give the government a mandate for the reform of the country's rules on penalties for offenses against cultural heritage.

If approved by Italy's parliament the reform is designed to:
  • introduce a new criminal offence "theft of cultural property" which will make a distinction between simple theft in general and heritage theft in particular.  This offense would carry a sentence of 2 to 8 years of imprisonment,
  • introduce a new criminal offence, the illicit trafficking (specifically of) cultural goods, which would be punishable by a sentence of 2 to 6 years of imprisonment, 
  • increase the penalties for crimes which lie downstream from the looting and theft of cultural property, this could including money laundering and/or receiving stolen goods, when those goods or proceeds are considered to have been the direct result of the illicit handling of cultural property, including specific penalties for the "illegal possession of cultural property" which would be punishable by eight years of imprisonment,
  • address the crime of pillage, seeking sanctions not only against the unjustified possession of metal detectors when found in possession of cultural goods on heritage sites, but the simple possession of tools used for tomb raiding, whether or not the person is found with heritage objects in their possession,
  • address the destruction, disfigurement, or desecration of cultural and landscape heritage,
  • allow for tougher penalties in cases involving art forgeries, 
  • allow for the use of undercover operations to track illicit trafficking of cultural property crime, including wiretapping,
  • allow for the reduction in criminal sentencing in cases where defendents work with law enforcement and stolen art is recovered.