Trafficking in cultural property "source of enormous illicit profits"

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Cultural heritage at the site of Palmyra, Syria. Photo: UNESCO/F. Bandarin

Trafficking in ancient artefacts provides a source of "enormous illicit profits" for terrorism according to the UN.

Conflict in the Middle East and West Africa in recent years has led to the increased destruction, looting, and the illegal sale of cultural property.

Daniel Dickinson reports.

Instability and conflict in places like Mali in West Africa and Syria and Iraq in the Middle East has led to an increase in the theft of art and cultural property.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has estimated the illegal trade in artefacts could add up to US$ 6.3 billion every year.

Terrorist groups like ISIL operating in the Middle East are thought to have been heavily involved.

Speaking at a UN corruption conference in St Petersburg, Russia, UNODC's John Brandolino said action was needed now to stop the trade.

"Trafficking in cultural property represents a source of enormous illicit profits for these groups involved. UNODC has reported that proceeds of transnational crime related to art and cultural property may possibly amount to some 0.8 per cent of all illicit financial flows. This is clearly an urgent issue requiring the attention of the international community."

He added that corruption is a critical component in the looting, trafficking and sale of cultural property.

Daniel Dickinson, United Nations

Duration: 1'09"

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