Alert for Members- New EU measures threaten to damage the art trade
CINOA Alert: sent to members
New EU measures threaten to damage the art trade
19 March 2018
European Union institutions are currently discussing two legal measures which, if passed un-amended, could cause considerable problems for many dealers and auction houses which sell fine art, antiques or antiquities:
- A new regulation controlling imports of cultural goods more than 250 years old.
- Extension of the Money Laundering Directive to cover businesses selling works of art.
The rationale behind the proposals is that the art market is erroneously believed to be a possible source of terrorism financing from looted archaeological items in the Near East and a high risk sector for money laundering.
Regulation controlling the import of cultural goods
How would the new regulation affect imports of art, antiques & antiquities?
There have been a number of different versions of the draft regulation, but the current proposal would have the following impact:
- It would apply to all types of cultural goods more than 250 years old (100 years old is also considered) when imported into EU Member States – it is not restricted to antiquities. A Louis XV painting dated before 1768 or an early 18th-century Dutch tea caddy would each have to comply with the new regulation, as would an early 18th-century bible or a small silver spoon from that period.
- Currently the regulations would apply irrespective of value. A damaged 18th-century topographical engraving worth €75 would be treated in the same way as an Old Master painting valued at €1 million.
- Descriptions and images of all cultural goods more than 250 years old would need to be entered onto an EU cultural goods register prior to being imported into the EU. This includes all jewellery, glass, silver, ceramics, paintings, furniture and sculpture more than 250 years old.
- Additionally for rare manuscripts, archaeological objects and items removed from historic monuments that are more than 250 years old importers would need to apply in advance for an EU import licence. Evidence would be required that these objects had been legally exported from their country of origin or, where the source country cannot be determined, that they were exported legally from their last country of export. The draft legislation would treat a Mesopotamian pot in the same way as a late 17th-century Italian manuscript – each would need proof that they had left their country of origin – Iraq or Italy – lawfully.
Why does CINOA oppose these proposals?
CINOA believes that the proposals are totally misguided for the following reasons:
- Studies have shown no significant funding links between terrorists and works of art including antiquities and manuscripts.
- Damaging the 99% of the art market trade that has absolutely no connection to the illegally occupied countries of the Near East is illogical. The worldwide trade in classical and pre-classical antiquities from the Mediterranean and the Near East represents less than 0.5% of the world art market.
- The registration measures would add costs and paperwork to the operation of art and antiques businesses throughout Europe, particularly dealers participating at art fairs abroad.
- The measures for controlling antiquities and manuscripts would add major delays and uncertainty to the imports of artefacts, irrespective of their cultural significance or value.
Money Laundering Directive to extend to sellers of works of art
The European Union's existing Money Laundering Directive treats any business trading in goods and accepting or paying €10,000 or more in cash as part of a “regulated sector”.
It has been proposed that the regulated sector be expanded to include all traders in works of art carrying out transactions of €10,000 or more, irrespective of the method of payment, e.g. whether by cash, credit card, bank transfer or cheque. A series of lower value linked transactions adding up to €10,000 or more would also be covered within the regulated sector.
What does being in the "regulated sector" mean?
Among other things traders in one of the regulated sectors are required to:
- Identify the buyer or seller of goods and verify their identity (e.g. from identity card or passport.)
- Identify the underlying beneficial owner, if that person or legal body is not the same as the buyer or seller. This would include asking an art agent to reveal the name of their undisclosed private client.
- Obtain details from the client of the purpose behind the business relationship.
Why does CINOA oppose these proposals in their current form?
Unless the proposals can be amended (or simplified due diligence applied), CINOA believes they could be very damaging for the following reasons:
- Compared to other sectors there is little evidence to suggest that the art market is linked to money laundering and/or terrorism financing.
- EU law already places a duty on traders to report any suspicions of money laundering to the authorities.
- The €10,000 threshold is too low and will involve too many transactions with a small risk of being connected to money laundering. Additionally, under the existing EU Directive most traders must already use payment methods that involve a bank, providing an audit trail for all money transfers.
- Because of the "linked transactions" rule many low value sales could be affected. Traders would need to monitor the extent of purchases or sales with customers in case they exceed the €10,000 threshold, at which point they would need to see and record details of a customer's ID.
- Art market businesses are mainly microbusinesses employing fewer than 10 people and, unlike banks and financial institutions, do not have the resources to deal with the extra bureaucracy.
- It is not explained how internet sales could be carried out, when a trader cannot see the original ID card of a new customer in person.
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