Question Period: Money Laundering and Art Theft

By: The Hon. Patricia Bovey

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Maman statue, Ottawa

Hon. Patricia Bovey: This question is for the Government Representative in the Senate. Senator Gold, contrary to my norm, today I want to ask about the art world’s dark side: art theft and illicit trade.

On June 9, the international The Art Newspaper posted an article noting that:

. . . all “art market participants” must register with the UK’s HMRC for anti-money laundering supervision before this Thursday, 10 June. Those who fail to do so risk civil penalties or criminal prosecution under the European Union’s 5th Money Laundering Directive (5MLD), designed to combat financial crime and terrorist funding.

Canadian police departments and INTERPOL have long diligently investigated art thefts and the illicit movement of cultural property. Having sent visual arts leaders weekly information on stolen works of art for years, I learned today that INTERPOL has now launched an app to identify stolen art — a too-frequent occurrence. Many pieces from bombed and defaced international historic sites are now reaching art markets. What new steps are being taken by our government to combat illicit import and sales of cultural property, particularly with the increased role of the internet in art crimes?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Senator, thank you for raising this question. With regard to money laundering, the government knows that this is not a victimless crime, so the government has invested hundreds of millions of dollars for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, or RCMP, for the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada and Canada Revenue Agency to tackle money laundering. For example, the RCMP recently launched new integrated money laundering investigative teams, which will provide additional officers in the provinces of Alberta, Ontario, B.C. and Quebec. On the specific issue of the illicit art market, thanks to your advanced notice I have made inquiries with the government. However, I have not yet received the information that you requested.

Senator Bovey: I want to thank you, Senator Gold. Just as an aside, I found it interesting that, years ago, the RCMP in B.C. had more people with art history PhDs than all universities and galleries put together.

The Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board is doing excellent work in issuing export and import permits. Can you assure this chamber that Canada’s border control agents are aware of the regulations and routinely call designated expert examiners across the country to assess questionable shipments?

Senator Gold: Thank you, senator. I did also inquire about this, as you had kindly provided me advanced notice of the question, but I have not yet received an answer.

Senator Bovey: Thank you.

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