Press Releases & Art Market papers
May 17 2024 | CINOA

Critique of misuse in EU Commission Action Plan of Interpol’s seized cultural goods figure

It can be seen at the top of page 15 of the 2020 Interpol report2 that the total number of
objects of cultural property seized worldwide in 2020 was 854,742, and then in the two pie
charts at the foot of the page that, of these:

472,933 were “Library materials” (meaning unclear) in Europe
224,316 were “Numismatic items”, i.e. coins, in Asia & South Pacific
Once these two figures are stripped out, in 2020 you are left with 157,493 seized
cultural items worldwide.

In contrast it should also be noted that paintings seizures in Europe that year were just
1,539 across the entirety of Europe. According to Google there are 50 countries in Europe,
so that averages out at just 30 paintings per country per year – some of which may be
the police recovering stolen property following investigations into domestic burglaries,
rather than trafficking of non-EU artefacts across borders.

It was misleading to refer to “Over 850,000” seizures of artefacts in the opening paragraphs
of the EU’s Action Plan without reference to the fact that, of the 854,742 items seized,
nearly half a million (472,933) were “library items” (in a single archive – see below) from
a single operation in one EU country and a quarter of a million were Asian coins.
Furthermore, it was unhelpful for the Commission to have spoken of 500,000 seized items…to read more download document