Bill Prevents ISIS-Stolen Art and Artifacts, Used to Help Fund Terrorism, From Being Trafficked in the U.S.
CHICAGO, IL – U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on National Security and International Trade and Finance, held an ad-hoc hearing to discuss ISIS and the funding of terrorism through the black market antiquities trade. ISIS makes approximately $100 million annually from the illegal sale of looted cultural artifacts, the Iraqi government reports. To combat this issue, Senator Kirk introduced the Terrorism Art and Antiquity Revenue Prevention Act of 2016 (TAAR Act), which prevents ISIS-stolen antiquities from being trafficked into the U.S., giving ISIS less money to fuel terrorism.
“Without reform, Americans could unknowingly fund ISIS through the purchase of cultural artifacts,” said Senator Kirk. “This legislation will create a lasting barrier to ISIS’s antiquity trade in the U.S. and ensure the federal government has the necessary tools to combat ISIS’s vital antiquity revenue stream.”
NBC News reports “[a]ntiquity plundering – particularly from violence-riddled Syria and Iraq – fuels a $7 billion black market, and some of that money lands in the pockets of terrorists, say archaeologists and international watchdogs.” In August, GAO disclosed there have been eighteen FBI cases opened related to ISIS antiquities in seven cities across the country, including Chicago.
Panelists at today’s event were Thomas Creal, International Forensic Accountant, Hunter Forensics, and Colonel Matthew Bogdanos, Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan, author, and Colonel in the United States Marine Corps Reserves.
“Fighting this type of enemy requires creativity on our side and needs to be a multi-faceted approach,” said Mr. Creal. Everyone must do their part. Mine is to follow the money. TAAR provides the legal foundation that keeps people focused and raises visibility, and it helps flush out black money. I predict the international world will quickly jump onboard TAAR.”
“Although publicly denouncing art as blasphemous, behind the cameras, the Islamic State’s large-scale antiquities-trafficking operation reveals that it cares less about idolatry than it does about dollars. All while a cozy cabal of academics, dealers, collectors, and museums turns a blind eye to the illicit side of the trade that is funding the bullets and bombs that are killing so many,” Colonel Bogdanos said.
In 2015, Congress passed the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act (Public Law 114-151), which gave the President authority to create an import ban on all Syrian archeological or ethnological material. However, further action is needed to make these bans enforceable and ensure antiquities do not indirectly fund ISIS.
Inspired by the successful legislation to combat blood diamonds in 2003, the TAAR Act creates a database and labeling program to provide law enforcement with essential data to identify ISIS-stolen antiquities. The legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). Specifically, the legislation:
- Amends the National Stolen Property Act to include cultural property valued at $50 or more.
- Directs the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to create a labeling program to identify legal antiquities from Iraq or Syria. DHS will require buyers and sellers of Iraqi or Syrian antiquities to report where and when the items were purchased, in addition to documentation that proves the chain of custody.
- Directs the Secretary of Commerce, through the Undersecretary of Standards and Technology, to create a scientific database of antiquities coming from Iraq or Syria in order to more easily identify illegal antiquities.
ABOUT THE PANELISTS
Currently, Tom Creal of Remetrics is serving as a Panel Expert for the United Nations regarding forensic accounting matters involving the Republic of Liberia. Creal served as the Chief of Staff for the Loleta Didrickson Administration at the Office of the Illinois State Comptroller, and as the lead Partner for the accounting firm of Checkers, Simon & Rosner. Creal He has served as the lead forensic accountant on various missions for the country of Liberia regarding the “blood diamond” trade, tax compliance issues, anti-money laundering, the development of evidence for civil recovery legal actions, and war crimes prosecution against the former regime. That engagement resulted in considerable time spent in country, and a very exhaustive education about United Nations protocol relative to international loss recovery. Creal also led the development of the Advanced Investigators Training School for all FDIC & RTC investigators pursuing Bank/S&L fraud and other civil legal actions. From 1991 through 1994, he taught over 1,000 professionals from the FDIC and the RTC.
Colonel Matthew Bogdanos
Col. Matthew Bogdanos is an Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan (since 1988), author, and a colonel in the United States Marine Corps Reserves. In 2003, while on active duty in the Marine Corps, he led an investigation into the looting of Iraq’s National Museum, and was subsequently awarded the National Humanities Medal for his efforts. For over five years Bogdanos led a team to recover the artifacts. Up to 2006 approximately 10000 artifacts were recovered through his efforts. Antiquities recovered include the Warka Vase and The Mask of Warka. Bogdanos wrote a memoir, Thieves of Baghdad: One Marine’s Passion for Ancient Civilizations and the Journey to Recover the World’s Greatest Stolen Treasures, which he co-wrote with William Patrick. He had previously gained national attention for the prosecution of Sean Combs, who was acquitted of weapons and bribery charges in a 2001 trial stemming from a 1999 nightclub shootout.