‘One third of art market is fake’: Art detective reveals how terrorists, mafia profit from it

As the ‘Indiana Jones of Lost Art’, Arthur Brand often finds himself at the crossroads of the illicit art trade and a shadowy criminal underground. The art detective joined RT’s SophieCo to reveal the secrets of his trade.

From the posh galleries of the European art scene to the farthest reaches of the Afghan Hindu Kush, Brand is on the hunt for stolen treasures. His work can sound much like a spy thriller, a world of clandestine meetings and forged documents.

Working with criminals, of course, has its risks.

“Sometimes you get threats,” he said, “I have to be cautious.”

The mafia and other criminal groups aren’t the only players dealing in stolen artwork; terrorist militants have entered the black market as well – what the CIA calls the world’s fourth largest illegal enterprise. The unlikely archeologists use the proceeds from stolen relics to finance their terror attacks.

“They call it blood antiques,” Brand said. “Groups like the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and ISIS, they conquer a certain area which is full of treasures,” forging paperwork and selling the artifacts in legal markets.

“Museums have bought [them] in the past” he said. “You can find them at auction houses. You can find them at art deals.”

Brand noted that in addition to the stolen masterpieces, fake ones are making the rounds as well.

“It’s absolutely more common than rare,” he said. “Thirty percent on the art market is fake. Either it’s complete fake or they have messed with it.”

Watch the full interview here.