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Copyright (c) 1993 Howard University
Howard Law Journal

ARTICLE: The Law and Stolen Art, Artifacts, and Antiquities


36 How. L.J. 17





The international marketplace for art, artifacts, and antiquities (hereinafter arts) is a billion dollar market. 1 A substantial portion of this business involves the transfer of stolen and smuggled property. 2 It is important to note that the vast majority of thefts are not for personal use; rather, they are a means of supplying products for ready, established and legitimate buyers. Many of these buyers are sophisticated collectors or dealers who redistribute these goods to the legitimate marketplace. 3 This article examines private international choice of law rules and international law enforcement to determine why the marketplace for stolen arts is so active, profitable, and undeterred by the criminal law. 4

Part I of this article provides background information on the art market. Part II investigates the role of private international law in the trade of stolen art, including its legitimation through manipulation of choice of law principles. Part II also considers conditions which facilitate transfers of stolen property, including those which promote sophisticated, extensive trafficking of stolen arts, such as removing informational barriers and competitive conditions. Part III considers the failure of effective criminal prosecutions for art theft and examines the model of criminal behavior in this trade, which makes optimal law enforcement impossible. In conclusion, the article proposes clarification of private international law principles and standardization of commercial practices which would diminish incentives to traffic in stolen arts. Failing adoption of such policies and practices, this article calls for marketplace regulation ...
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