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Prevention and Suppression of Theft of Works of Art

Concerning the struggle against theft, we remind you of the existence of:

1) At an international level: The ART LOSS REGISTER, which establishes a worldwide list of stolen works of art, in collaboration with museums, auction houses, national and international police (Interpol), insurance companies, brokers and individuals (including antique dealers), in the hope that the access to the register will stop the sale of stolen goods, help their restitution, and allow the arrest of thieves and receivers. Which works of art can be registered? Any identifiable object of a minimal value of 750$. At what cost? The cost goes from 40$ per object to a much lower subscription rate. For instance, all Belgian Insurance Companies could globally subscribe for a cost of £10,000 per annum. One hundred and thirty companies throughout the world have already subscribed. Christie's, Sotheby's and Philips have done so, and every photographed item appearing in their sales catalogues with an estimate above 50$ is automatically checked. Amercian museums check upon the ARL before any acquisition over 35,000$ is done. As the FIDAO and the CINOA are subscribers, the antique dealers can consult the Register or have their stolen objects registered at special rates: please consult your associations. The other subscribers are: the BADA, Nordstern, Lloyd's (84 branches throughout the world), etc. The FBI, Interpol and the Belgian police are in touch with the ALR. The ALR is presently solliciting all the European Museums. If the great majority of the Belgian Insurance Companies were to subscribe as a whole to the ALR, it would not be in the interest of the Belgian Chamber of Experts in Works of Art to subscribe individually, because any art expert charged by an insurance company to assess a damage could require from the insurance company to check with the ALR. The results. In five years, the ALR has recovered over 700 listed works of art for a total amount of 25,000,000$, as well as 3,500 works of art which were not listed, all returned to their rightful owners. The stolen goods were registered by the police (78%), the museums (5%), the dealers (4%), the insurance companies (3,5%) and the auction houses (9,5%). The objects were identified and returned by the police (40%), the auction houses (49%), the museums and the dealers (5%). The address of the ALR (Mrs Guita Abidari) is: 13, Grosvenor Place - London SW1 X7HH - Tel: 0171 - 235 33 93 - Fax: 0171 - 235 16 52 - Internet: Artloss@Artloss.Co.UK.

2) At a national level: the "Service Général d'Appui Policier" (SGAP), Central Bureau for Works of Art and Antiquities. It is a police section dedicated to the finding of stolen works of art in Belgium and abroad, and it is directed by the Superintendant Mrs. Annie Moulin. This section regularly sends us information concerning all stolen goods in Belgium, and the most important ones stolen abroad, most often released by Interpol. This information consists of photographs and precise description (type, dimensions, value, date and place of theft, etc.). May I remind you that you can consult this information at our General Secretary's, Mr. Jean-Jacques van Eyll (15 avenue du Brésil - 1000 Bruxelles - Tel/fax: 02-672 87 39). If you are victim of a theft, and you possess a clear photograph of the stolen good, you can send it to Mrs. Moulin's Section who will circulate it, subject to your having a police theft declaration with a reference number. This service is free of charge. Address: 13, rue des Quatre Bras - 1000 Bruxelles. Tel. of the "Bureau Central Oeuvres d'Art et Antiquités" (BCOA): 508 7192 - 508 7197 - 508 7582 - Permanence: 508 7373 - 508 7447. These are also the telephone numbers you have to dial if you have located, identified or found a stolen good. Some countries are somehow reluctant to use such tactics, as Mr. Blaizot - President of the French Antiquarian CINOA, has recently explained. French Police is opposed to the divulgation of a list of stolen goods because, according to them, it will encourage clandestine dealings and exports, even the destruction by thieves and receivers of stolen goods. French Police rely on informers to help them uncover illegal traffic but maintain that they arrive too late whenever the registers have been widely divulged. They are in favour of allowing only specialists in the struggle against theft to consult such registers. However, they do recognise the preventive aspect of registering with the ALR goods belonging to individuals or to institutions. Many countries are opposed to the UNIDROIT project concerning illegal traffic (see the corresponding article in this Newsletter ), and the professionnals of the antique trade are against the marking of works of art, not only for confidential reasons, but like the French Police, they are afraid that once an object is stolen, it will be very tempting for thieves or receivers to destroy it.

Published since 30 Nov 2009