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Due Diligence
1/29/2001 4:18:08 PM

CoPAT has launched two new voluntary codes to reduce the theft of art and heritage objects. The recently agreed codes of “due diligence” have been developed by CoPAT in partnership with the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), Norfolk Constabulary, and the Metropolitan Police Service. They recommend steps the art trade can take to ensure that dealers and auctioneers do not unwittingly buy or sell stolen objects.

Paul Boateng MP, Ken Williams of Norfolk Constabulary and ACPO, and Mark Dalrymple of CoPAT at the launch of the codes of due diligence

The launch was held on 2 March 1999 at the Museums and Galleries Commission, London. The event was attended Mr Paul Boateng MP, Minister of State at the Home Office; Ken Williams the Chief Constable of Norfolk, representing ACPO; and Mark Dalrymple, chairman of the Council for the Prevention of Art Theft (CoPAT).

The codes are the result of three years work by CoPAT with the wider co-operation of dealers, auctioneers, private collectors, lawyers, police officers, Customs and Excise and other government departments. Finalised in October 1998, they have already been adopted by, The British Antique Dealers’ Association, the Incorporated Society of Valuers and Auctioneers, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the Antiquarian Booksellers Association, the Library Association, the Rare Books Group and the Society of Fine Art Auctioneers.

They are also strongly supported by key heritage bodies, including English Heritage, the Museums and Galleries Commission, the National Trust (England and Scotland), and the Historic Houses Association.

ACPO has supported them by recommending that every police service in England and Wales should have an officer with responsibility for due diligence. Each force has now appointed a “due diligence officer”, responsible for liaison with the art trade and with other police intelligence and investigative resources at local, national, and international levels.

Welcoming the CoPAT codes on behalf of the Home Office, Mr Paul Boateng declared that they represented “a significant new initiative to tackle this area of crime and, as such, they deserve our support.” Mr Boateng also said that “The government recognises that arts and antiques crime is a significant problem, especially in monetary terms. According to insurance industry estimates, it exceeds £300 million per year.”

Mr Williams, speaking for ACPO, said that the “codes present a realistic opportunity to attack the theft of and dealing in stolen art at all levels from domestic burglary to museum and gallery thefts.”

CoPAT’s chairman, Mark Dalrymple, made the point that the codes will help auctioneers and dealers by protecting them from inadvertently buying or selling stolen objects, and assist the police by providing valuable intelligence and evidence against art thieves.”

The British Antique Dealers’ Association (BADA) has welcomed the codes. Mark Dodgson, speaking for BADA, said: “The British Antique Dealers’ Association has been very pleased to contribute to the development of the codes and hopes that they will assist dealers to avoid unwittingly acquiring stolen goods. We are also pleased that the police have appointed officers to back up the codes, and look forward to hearing exactly what extra resources are to be allocated to preventing the circulation of stolen art and antiques.”

The codes have also been welcomed by the Association of British Insurers (ABI). Tony Baker, the ABI’s Deputy Director General, said: “The Launch of these codes is a timely and much needed response to the serious problem of the theft of art and antiques. We believe they will help to reduce the current high levels of art and heritage theft, as well as protecting family heirlooms that are found in many homes throughout the country.”

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Council for the Prevention of Art Theft


In order to prevent the illicit trade in stolen art and antiques, CoPAT recommends that dealers endeavour to:

  1. Require a vendor to provide their name and address and to sign a form identifying the item for sale and confirming that it is the unencumbered property of the vendor and that they are authorised to sell it, and this form will be dated.
  2. Verify the identity and address of new vendors and record the details.
  3. Be suspicious of any item whose asking price does not equate to its market value.
  4. If there is reason to believe an item may be stolen:
    1. Attempt to retain the item while enquiries are made.
    2. Contact the officer with responsibility for art and antiques within the local police force area, or in an emergency dial 999.
    3. Check with relevant stolen property register(s).
    4. Pass to the police any information which may help to identify the person(s) in possession of such items.
    5. If still uncertain, refuse to buy, sell or value it.
  5. If requested, submit catalogues to the officer with responsibility for art and antiques within the local police force area.
  6. Look critically at any instance when requested to pay in cash and avoid doing so unless there is a strong and reputable reason to the contrary. In the absence of such a reason, pay by cheque or other method that provides an audit trail.
  7. Be aware of money laundering regulations.
  8. Appoint a senior member of staff to whom employees can report suspicious activities.
  9. Ensure that all staff are aware of their responsibilities in respect of the above.

This code has been drawn up with the co-operation of:

Antiquarian Booksellers' Association
British Antique Dealers' Association
Library Association
Rare Books Group
Incorporated Society of Valuers and Auctioneers
Royal Institution of Chartered Suveyors
Society of Fine Art Auctioneers
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