From Montreal Gazette, November 4, 2018
Italy’s populist government is to introduce tough new penalties for art and antiquities crimes as it aims to crack down on cultural theft as part of its nationalist agenda.
The announcement comes after several high-profile restitutions of antiquities taken to London and New York and recovered only after being put up for sale, sometimes for millions.
An ancient wine carafe, a decanter for precious oils and a soup tureen were among the latest of 16 precious art and archaeological artefacts recovered in the U.S. over the last two years and returned to Italy this week.
Italian government officials say they will soon be ratifying the Nicosia convention, an international agreement establishing penalties for offences such as unlawful excavation, importation and exportation, illegal acquisition and sale of cultural artefacts.
The return of Italian cultural items has been a stated aim of the new populist government made up of the Five Star Movement and the League party.
“We want to introduce laws on specific crimes so there are stiffer penalties applied to crimes against cultural heritage,” said the Alberto Bonisoli, the Five Star culture minister, in Washington at a celebration of the return of the three treasures. The carafe, tureen and vase had been illegally dug out of an archaeological site and exported to the US. Detectives from the cultural heritage protection unit of the Carabinieri, Italy’s paramilitary police, spotted the items listed for sale at a New York auction house and contacted the FBI.
Fabrizio Parrulli, head of the art crime unit, told The Daily Telegraph. “Thanks to our collaborators at the Met Police and FBI, we are developing a diplomatic culture of restitution that involves bringing the works back.”