Illicit trafficking of cultural goods

The security of cultural goods remains an important issue for the European Historic Houses Association. The illicit trafficking of stolen goods is a subject that concerns most of our members. Residential houses are the first victims of theft, before places of worship and museums. Most robberies are committed in historic houses that are open to the public, which makes them very vulnerable. Since about half of the private historic houses in Europe are accessible to the public, one can imagine how sensitive this issue is for our members.

Following the study the European Historic Houses Association led amongst its members, five major recommendations were proposed to assist private owners of historic houses, both in terms of theft prevention that is mostly local as well as the international dimension that is possible when the traffic of goods crosses borders.

  1. To create an European database composed of specific criteria on which each private owner could put down an European inventory card, describing the object stolen in two copies, one in English, the other one in the language of the owner.
  1. To strengthen the juridical status of the inventory, in order to facilitate the research and also the traceability of the items. Also, it can ease the process of recovery for the owner of the items, who sometimes has to repay for his own cultural goods.
  1. To reinforce the role of the National Association of historic houses by creating a referent / contact point who would act on prevention, but also on the actions to be taken in case of theft. Recognized by the public authorities, the contact point’s role would be that of an intermediary between, on the one hand, the owner who has undergone a major theft and the specialized agencies/institutions that have expertise and give out best practices advices. The referent would be a qualified person, formed by these international institutions in conferences or seminars. There is a need to avoid the proliferation of cooperation and appoint referees in each country.
  1. To coordinate all the national legislations dealing with the illicit trafficking of cultural goods and create an European legislation that would define, at an European level, the definitions of cultural goods, illicit trafficking and concealment.
  2. To encourage the police specialized in the illicit trafficking of cultural goods to raise awareness for local police forces by offering seminars and conferences, so they can be better prepared to fight against theft.