Private ‘Rescue’-by-Purchase of Stolen Cultural Goods: The Material and Social Consequences and the Complicity of Europe and North America


‘Rescue’ has long provided a justification for the handling of illicit cultural goods, yet the specific consequences of this practice have not been systematically documented. This paper draws on historic, recent and still-emerging cases around the world to assess the resurgent argument that looted antiquities and stolen artefacts should be rescued through purchases made by private collectors. It shows that the practice is promoted by politically exposed persons, who use it for money laundering and reputation laundering; that proceeds from the practice may be received by transnational organised crime groups; and that its social and political acceptability is exploited to facilitate fraud and embezzlement.

While many of these cases demonstrate complicity on the part of elites and authorities within the societies that are victimised, they are emblematic of the global structure of this enterprise. They also reaffirm the complicity of markets and authorities in the Global North/West in illicit flows of cultural assets that are exceptionally harmful to societies in the Global South/East.

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Published: 2021-03-01
Pages:65 to 82
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How to Cite
Hardy, S. A. (2021) “Private ‘Rescue’-by-Purchase of Stolen Cultural Goods: The Material and Social Consequences and the Complicity of Europe and North America”, International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 10(1), pp. 65-82. doi: 10.5204/ijcjsd.v10i1.1526.

Author Biography

Norwegian Institute in Rome, University of Oslo

Dr. Samuel Andrew Hardy is the Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in Cultural Heritage and Conflicts at the Norwegian Institute in Rome, University of Oslo. He is also an expert in the Alliance to Counter Crime Online (ACCO) and the Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA), an adjunct professor at the American University of Rome and an honorary lecturer at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London.