The Ambassador of Italy to the US Armando Varricchio and the Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs of the State Department, Marie Royce, signed the “Memorandum of Understanding on the imposition of restrictions on the import of categories of archaeological material from Italy.”
The Memorandum, together with the previous agreement dating back to 2001, offers the legal framework that will allow Italian authorities (the Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage (TPC), and American authorities to continue the successful fight against the illicit trafficking of art from Italy and bring back works and artifacts recovered in the USA.
Following the signature, some artifacts recovered by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in collaboration with the TPC Carabinieri Command were unveiled. Among these a bust dating back to the 1st century BC, stolen from Villa Torlonia in the 1980s, two manuscripts dating back to the 9th century and a Roman coin.
Ambassador Armando Varricchio stressed that today’s event “demonstrates how even during the pandemic, the collaboration between Italian and American law enforcement agencies has continued to produce extraordinary results. The MoU lays the foundations to give further impetus to almost 20 years of outstanding cooperation with the United States with whom we share the conviction that preserving our cultural heritage is indispensable for studying and deepening our knowledge of the past and building a better future.”
“The United States and Italy have worked together to stop looting and trafficking of Italy’s archaeological heritage since 2001 when our countries first entered into a bilateral agreement. It has been a model for cooperation in combating the loss of such priceless cultural heritage. Our cooperation not only protects valuable Italian artifacts but also eliminates key sources of funding for terrorists and transnational organized crime engaged in the illicit trade of cultural property,” said Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Marie Royce.
“For nearly twenty years, the U.S. and Italian law enforcement authorities have worked together to investigate and combat art crime,” said Assistant Director Calvin Shivers of the FBI Criminal Investigative Division. “This extension of the Memorandum of Understanding, signed today, represents our continued commitment to protecting and preserving the cultural and artistic heritages of our countries. To those who would attempt to loot or defraud the art community, be warned the full force of this international partnership will be there to ensure justice is served.”
“When individuals attempt to steal and profit from the rich cultural history of Italy, they not only steal from the rightful owners, but they steal from the future and our understanding of the past,” said Patrick J. Lechleitner, Assistant Director of International Operations for Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). “The renewal of this memorandum of understanding between the United States and Italy and the repatriation of these pieces shows the continued commitment between our nations to prevent and investigate cultural property crimes. HSI stands besides our law enforcement partners both in Italy and here in the United States to investigate, seek to recover and return these unique pieces of history.”
In October 2018, the Italian Embassy in Washington, together with the Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, the Department of State, FBI and ICE, organized an exhibition with artifacts recovered in the USA. On that same occasion, the Embassy presented the volume “Saving art, protecting heritage”, with over 200 pictures and descriptions of works illegally imported into the United States and recovered over the course of 15 years of collaboration.
Source: Italian Embassy in Washington