WASHINGTON (Talk Media News) – The United States is the largest market for the Islamic State militant group’s illicit trade in plundered antiquities, according to Patty Gerstenblith, a professor at DePaul University College of Law.
The sale of antiquities and other cultural artifacts stolen from museums, private collections and archaeological sites in Iraq and Syria have raised the need for long- and short-term solutions with tracking information of objects that come in and leave the country, she said before the House Financial Services Committee, Terrorism Financing Task Force on Tuesday.
“There is no legal obligation on the part of the dealer to know who either the seller or the buyer is as long as the dealer is getting whatever finances they want to get out of the arrangement,” Gerstenblith said.
The Islamic State group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, funds its operations via the sale of antiquities among other means. The group takes in $150 million to $200 million from the sales a year, according to a letter from Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations obtained by Reuters earlier this month.
Gestenblith said that the United States can take steps to regulate the trade in recently looted artifacts at no risk.
“Attacking terrorism financing using cultural objects and art is impeded by the current inability to cross reference independently reported and organized pieces of information to identify suspicious activity” and therefore be able to identify patterns, said Lawrence Shindell, chairman of ARIS Title Insurance Corporation.
He advocated for transparency in trade.
Yaya J. Fanusie, director of analysis at Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance and Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said ISIS uses the funds to win the “hearts and minds” of its subjugated population.
He urged that law enforcement and intelligence officials to pay close attention to the antiquities trade to understand how the U.S. and its allies can defeat the group — militarily, financially and ideologically.