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Global traffic in illicit cultural objects: developing knowledge for improving interventions in a transnational criminal market (GTICO)
Start date: Feb 1, 2012, End date: Jan 31, 2016 PROJECT  FINISHED 

"The research seeks to push the boundaries of our understanding of, and social and legal responses to, trafficking in illicit cultural objects. The global market in illicit cultural objects is a structure of relatively rich consumers at one end of the supply chain (collectors, dealers, museums) and relatively poor looters at the other end, in source countries characterised by high levels of the 'natural resource' of cultural objects and low levels of policing resource to devote to their protection against looting (i.e. usually illegal excavation) and other forms of theft. While there has been some research into the market, compared to other international criminal markets such as the drugs trade, very little is known about the motives and activities of participants in the international trade in illicit cultural objects, their trading norms and routines, the pricing structures and criminal mark-ups, mechanisms of smuggling used in this market in order to avoid detection at customs and by other law enforcement agencies, etc. Even such apparently simple matters as the relative size of the criminal side of the antiquities trade are not currently known. Structures of international, and domestic national, law and regulation have been established in response to the moral concern the illicit trade raises, rather than being based on an evidence-oriented investigation of the practical elements of the trade mentioned. While some of these regulatory efforts have had modest success, for the most part they have been a failure in stopping the illicit trade, which continues today. This research proposal establishes a multi-method and multi-sited programme of research which aims to gather and analyse all available evidence on the trade, produce new measures of size and illicit activity using innovative methodological approaches and new data sources, and conduct ethnographic research into the illicit trade. All these data sources will be used to devise best practice in regulation."

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