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Art trafficking: when art and law intersect

|Written By Kendyl Sebesta

Archaeological theft, antiques, and art looted by Nazi probably aren’t filling the minds of many Canadian lawyers today, but according to New York’s Herrick Feinstein LLP lawyer Lawrence Kaye they should be.

The trade of antiquities continues to thrive and a considerable amount of them are trafficked through Canada, says Lawrence Kaye. (Photo: Kendyl Sebesta)

“The sad fact is the trade of antiquities still continues to thrive today and a considerable amount of them are trafficked through Canada,” says Kaye. “But, Canada doesn’t have the type of guidelines that would be necessary to considerably prosecute such thefts. In fact, the FBI often gives many countries the teeth they need to pursue legal action.”

Kaye says artwork looted through war or theft often holds the key to unique aspects of a country’s culture and poses interesting legal questions for lawyers across the globe.

“We should care because this artwork holds the key to our human history,” he added. “If it is stolen and never returned, what will happen to that history?”

Kaye made the comments during a symposium on criminality in the art and cultural property world at Osgoode Hall in Toronto Friday. The two-day event discussed archaeological theft, Canada’s legal framework for art-based law, and managing risk at museums and art galleries.

The session, the first of three on June 15, wrapped up with a discussion on law enforcement and investigations by art crime units across the province, Canada, and the United States. The symposium continued June 16 at Osgoode Hall with discussions on how art museums can manage the risk of theft.

For more on this story, be sure to check out the June 25 edition of Law Times.

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