The link between antiquities stolen in the Middle East and criminal terrorist groups will not seem obvious at first but this documentary reveals an interesting and enlightening perspective. Art antiques are inherently valuable and if they fall into the hands of criminal elements, then they become even more lucrative commodities. Groups like the "Islamic State" get their funding from these antiques.
The art is looted from places like ancient cities in Libya and somehow ends up in art galleries in places like Paris, Tokyo and Brussels. It is a mystery how they manage to ship these items across cultural borders. It really is an interesting phenomenon when art is used to fund terrorism.
What makes the phenomenon even more interesting is that collectors of these antiques are usually members of the royal family for instance. When the artifacts and antiques end up with buyers like these, it is almost as if it legitimizes the trade. To art enthusiasts, it is clear that sellers engage in archaeological looting. They pillage sites like temples in order to make their find.
There is usually a collaboration between the police, customs officers and research archaeologists as they try to unearth if and how the due diligence is established and how sellers manage to fabricate the provenance of each antique and its correct owner.
They find that oftentimes the art smugglers will incorrectly date the art pieces, as well as underprice them so that they won't draw any attention from authorities. Smugglers will use tribes that are specialists in smuggling these kinds of goods and they will use social media to communicate. It is not a guarantee that all of the smugglers will know each other. Instead, they will do their part for a certain leg of the journey and then pass on the task to the others on their team.
Looters can actually find buyers on social media sites. Buyers also use the sites to compare notes, and in that way, they form a community that is consistently in contact, arranging for their pickups, drop-offs and exchanging knowledge about the best kind of tools to use.
Owners of the antiques tend to be confident they will not be prosecuted even at times when it is obvious they were stolen. The truth is that they might not even realize they are providing the funding to terrorist groups. If you value art and its authenticity, this will be an interesting and educational feature for you.
Directed by: François Cardona