New 'intelligence' body set to fight illicit trade in world's priceless treasures
By Ian Johnston, NBC News
LONDON -- Ancient statues from Nigeria and Cambodia, colorful cloaks from Peru, ceremonial furniture from Haiti before Columbus and clay tablets inscribed with writing thousands of years old: The illegal trade in looted cultural artifacts is vast, poorly policed and highly profitable.
But NBC News has learned that a new international body to gather "intelligence" about the illicit sale of some of the world's most beautiful and historic objects is set to be established.
Groups like the Taliban and al-Qaida are thought to raise funds in this way with suggestions that smuggling art and antiquities is the world's third most common form of trafficking after drugs and weapons, worth $6 billion or more a year.