Call to open looted-art archives grow louder

02 Jun 2015 8:19 AM | Anonymous

Calls to open looted-art archives grow louder

Museums and the trade want to put an end to the Catch-22 situation with Medici and Becchina

by Ermanno Rivetti , Melanie Gerlis  |  2 June 2015

It is now 20 years since a trove of Polaroids, documents and antiquities that passed through the hands of the convicted dealer Giacomo Medici were discovered in a Geneva Freeport, seized by the Italian police and presented as evidence in a high-profile looting case in Italy. Six years later, in 2001, the more detailed archives of another convicted antiquities dealer, Gianfranco Becchina, were retrieved by the Swiss authorities and then transferred to Italy.

This led to a number of court cases surrounding illegally-excavated antiquities and resulted in some convictions, but no jail time, due in part to statutes of limitations expiring in Italy (see below). They have also embroiled Medici and Becchina’s suppliers and buyers—notoriously including the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles—with the Becchina archive’s contents leading to police investigations of 10,000 people’s affairs in Italy alone.

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