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Canada dumping ground for stolen art

“Art thieves and black market dealers in cultural heritage material have a better chance of unloading their valuable booty — and avoiding prosecution — in Canada than almost anywhere else, say two prominent stolen art experts.

“It’s impossible to know just how much art is stolen and resold in Canada because there’s virtually no one keeping track of it,” award-winning arts writer and investigative journalist Joshua Knelman said Friday, commenting on the recovery this week of two major pieces — a Henry Moore sculpture and a Paul Klee painting — by canny gallery owners in Toronto and Montreal respectively.

“There are no specialist art theft investigators in the Toronto police force, and none in the OPP or the RCMP.

“If I had a piece of stolen art worth less than $100,000 — objects of greater value tend to attract more scrutiny — Canada is an excellent place to slip it back into the market.”

Victims of art theft in Canada have few resources to help them find stolen property, said Knelman, who is writing a book on the international cultural black market, Hot Art, to be published soon by Free Press, an imprint of Simon & Shuster U.S.

“In Canada, most of the policing is done by diligent gallery and auction-house owners who check items offered for sale with the ALR.

“Detection in this unregulated system seems to rely almost entirely on the honesty and integrity of local dealers and brokers.

“Even so, it’s often very difficult to lay charges because it’s rare that the seller is the actual thief. Stolen art usually changes hands many times, or it’s handed down and part of an inheritance.

“No arrests is the norm in Canada.”


For more see: Greg Quill ASSOCIATED PRESS