America Oggi/Oggi7
4 september 2005

Intervention/Lets Help The Carabinieri's Tutela Patrimonio Culturale SAVE The Memorandum Of Understanding

By Charles Vincent Sabba Jr.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is an agreement that restricts the importation of Italian antiquities into the U.S. dating from 900 BC to 500 AD. This has been an effective deterrent to the illicit antiquities trade. This type of market promotes and finances major criminal organizations funds terrorist cells. Police personel risk their lives daily in Italia to intervene in these types of criminal activities. If the US government allows this agreement with one of our loyal allies to expire, the consequences will be incalcuable.

If the mou expires, dirty dealers and greedy collectors will begin to weave their dishonest webs at alarming rates. In US auction houses, it is becoming more common that items of illicit nature are found; Without the MOU's renewal this will surely increase. The level of sensitivity to these problems, as well as controls, are much lower here than in Europe. Museum curators are tempted by this big money also. A dishonest curator who orchestrates the purchase of an antiquity with a questionable provenance can receive a 10 to 20 % kick back of the items final price. There are many instances in which U.S. museums have purchased antiquities that the Italian government believed to have been dug up from illicit archeological sites and smuggled out of Italy. Two prime examples of this are the attic-red figured Euphronious krater and the Morgantina Silver, which were bought by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in N.Y. with the help of an antiquario named Robert Hecht The Italian authorities insist they have proof that these treasures were unearthed from illicit archeological sites in Tuscany and Sicily by looters and illegally smuggled out of the country. The Italian government demanded repatriation of all of these works and the museum resisted their effort to repatriate its cultural property.

The Carabinieri's TPC has stated in the past, that besides the Met in NY, there are many other large American museums that possess archeological objects that were obtained illegally, the most notorious is the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. A curator from the Getty Museum, Marion True, has recently been indicted, along with Robert Hecht, and an Italian dealer named Giacomo Medici, for criminal conspiracy to receive stolen goods and illicit receipt of archeological objects. With this trial, the result of a ten year TPC investigation, the Carabinieri are sending a strong message to criminals: do not dig up, steal, or smuggle Italy's artistic heritage!

The Italian Carabinieri's Tutela Patrimonio Culturale was established in 1969. They were the first police unit in the world specialized in art crimes. They are respected worldwide as the elite investigators in this field.

It is a human duty to preserve the world's cultural patrimony. The patrimony of Italy belongs first and foremost to the Italian people. A generous people who are willing to share their artistic wealth with visitors to Italy and through museum loans. The Italian's are also a strong willed people who refuse to let criminals steal their treasures. The illicit antiquities trade is a criminal enterprise, operated by criminals, who are committing crimes against the Italian people. We must renew the MOU.