(Bundeskriminalamt Wien – Interpol, Vienna, Austria)
It is not obvious that plundered antiques are returned to the states of origin. Usually they are sold to foreign countries. All kinds of artefacts, including archaeological items, are wanted in the art trade. But where do works of art and antiques in the art trade come from? There do not exist legal provisions to prove the provenance of an object. Provenances often are given as “family property” which might be true or not.
When a stolen or illegally excavated object is sold in an auction house or in an antiques shop it is white washed. That means that the buyer has a good title and the stolen object has a new owner. The problem: How can one know that an object has been stolen or illegally excavated? How can one know where an object comes from? It is crucial that victims inform Police and experts as soon as possible and provide good photographs and descriptions of the stolen objects (standard of Object-ID). Plundered objects should be registered in the Interpol Stolen Works of Art database. This international database is available in all 190 member states of Interpol and can be used free of charge by everybody. Especially Police, customs and the art trade use it in regular terms when antiques are offered or found.