Former art smuggling kingpin says officials aren't doing enough to stop trade in Iraqi antiquities
Michel Van Rijn is well versed in the dark arts of antiquity trading, as well as the riches that can be made from them. Claimed by some to have once been responsible for 90% of international art smuggling, the Dutchman admits to having made millions from less than legal activities — and to having lost millions as well.
But now he is helping to catch those involved in the trade, rather than profit from it, Van Rijn is concerned at the stuttering progress authorities have made in retrieving Iraq’s treasures. “They are looking in the wrong direction,” he says, cooking breakfast for his family in his London home.
“They have no idea of reality. They are up against very well organised looters with outlets in Switzerland, the US, France and England. So they need people who know the mechanics of the black market and how to fight it. They need people to whisper in their ear and tell them where to look.”
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