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Cultural Property, Art and Antiquities Investigations
04/06/2017

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HSI Assistant Director attends Global Seven Ministerial

HSI Assistant Director attends Global Seven Ministerial

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) International Operations Assistant Director Ray Villanueva recently provided remarks at the inaugural G7 Ministerial Meeting on Culture in Florence, Italy.

The two-day meeting, which was held March 30-31, centered on the theme “Culture as a Tool for Dialogue among Peoples.” The event brought together officials from Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Canada, Japan and the United States, to discuss the preservation and protection of cultural heritage, and the fight against trafficking of artistic and historic items.

“Criminals trafficking in antiquities are often members of transnational criminal organizations.  Not only do they destroy the world’s heritage, but they also use their profits to fund drug lords, weapons dealers, and terrorists,” AD Villanueva said in his remarks. “One of the most effective ways of raising public awareness is returning the artifacts, objects, and cultural patrimony to their rightful owners through a repatriation ceremony.  These ceremonies highlight investigations and the stories behind the objects themselves that were smuggled or stolen, as well as the women and men who brought the criminals to justice.”

The preservation of cultural history and property will take commitment from all G7 countries. In his remarks, AD Villanueva stressed the importance of working together.

“Fighting trafficking is a collaborative effort across many different Departments. Law enforcement officials in two U.S. federal agencies are specially trained to investigate illicit trafficking of cultural property,” Villanueva said. “HSI maintains the Cultural Property, Art and Antiquities Program and the Federal Bureau of Investigation has an Art Crime Team.”

Since 2007, more than 8,000 artifacts and cultural object have been returned to over 30 countries including paintings from France, Germany, Poland and Austria; illuminated manuscripts from Italy; cultural artifacts from China, Cambodia, Egypt, India, and Iraq; dinosaur fossils from Mongolia; and more than 200 pieces items of cultural significance from Peru.

Learn more about HSI's cultural property, art and antiquities investigations. Members of the public who have information about suspected stolen cultural property are urged to call the toll-free tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or to complete the online tip form.

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Last Reviewed/Updated: 04/06/2017