In November 2020, Nigeria received a “priceless” terracotta head believed to be at least 600 years old which was smuggled to the Netherlands.
Indeed, the illicit trade in archaeological artefacts has been a long-drawn activity for centuries.
According to the Antiquities Trafficking and Heritage Anthropology Research (ATHAR) Project, the illicit trade in artefacts witnessed a massive spike in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But to solve this problem, the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) recently unveiled an app that can be used to track and retrieve stolen artefacts.
The ID-Art app helps identify stolen cultural property, reduce illicit trafficking, and increase the chances of recovering stolen works and artefacts.
This app enables users ranging from law enforcement to the general public to get mobile access to the INTERPOL database of stolen works of art, create an inventory of private art collections and report cultural sites potentially at risk.
“In recent years we’ve witnessed the unprecedented ransack by terrorists of the cultural heritage of countries arising from armed conflict, organized looting and cultural cleansing. This new tool is a significant step forward in enhancing the ability of police officers, cultural heritage professionals and the general public to protect our common heritage.”Jürgen Stock , INTERPOL Secretary-General
Publicly available, the app will boost real-time access to INTERPOL’s Stolen Works of Art database, the only global database containing certified police information on stolen and missing art objects.
Police, customs officers, private collectors, art dealers and art enthusiasts can instantly check to see if an object is among the more than 52,000 items currently registered as stolen.
Searches against the database via the app can be carried out by taking or uploading a photo, or by entering search criteria manually.
Already, the global coalition (using the app) to stamp out the illicit artefacts trade is yielding results.
During the app’s pilot phase earlier this year, in Italy the Carabinieri’s unit for the protection of cultural heritage identified two stolen statues put on sale on a commercial platform thanks to the mobile application, resulting in a judicial inquiry.
In addition, authorities in The Netherlands recovered two stolen paintings after the Dutch Art Crime Unit identified the paintings thanks to ID-Art, following checks on an online sales catalogue involving an Amsterdam auction house.
ID-Art is available in INTERPOL’s official languages – Arabic, English, French and Spanish – and is funded by the INTERPOL Foundation for a Safer World.
It can be downloaded on GOOGLE and APPLE Play store.