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January 22, 2015Rome, ItalyCultural Property, Art and Antiquities Investigations

ICE acknowledged in Italy for outstanding investigative work

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) was acknowledged on Jan. 21 for its investigative work which resulted in the seizure, forfeiture and return of several objects to the Italian government.

Representatives from HSI Rome attended the ceremony that was hosted by the Italian minister of culture, the commanding general of the Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale (TPC) and Rome’s head prosecutor.

Over 5,000 looted artifacts valued at more than $50 million Euros were illicitly traded by Gianfranco Becchina, an Italian national and one of Italy’s most prolific traffickers of illicit cultural property. HSI became involved in one of the Becchina investigations after receiving a lead from Carabinieri TPC regarding looted objects being offered for sale by a New York auction house. 

After receiving a lead from the TPC, HSI Rome opened an investigation and forwarded evidence to HSI New York. Based upon the evidence, HSI New York obtained a seizure warrant, authorized by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York, and took custody of the artifacts.

“The return of a nation’s cultural property is a rewarding experience. HSI is proud to work with and support our international partners such as the Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale, along with our domestic offices,” said HSI Rome Attaché Mike Unzueta. “We were happy to have been a part of this significant criminal investigation. The fight against the illicit trade of cultural property is but one of our many transnational investigative efforts. “
Updated: 10/29/2020