The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, has warned that individuals should stop patronising fraudsters who use fake stamps of its office to sell artefacts from Africa to unsuspecting buyers.
According to the organisation, fake documents falsely claimed that UNESCO authorised the transactions, and certified the monetary value of collections.
Following numerous reports received by UNESCO on the scam, UNESCO advised art lovers approached to buy such items bearing its stamp, to exercise the “utmost vigilance”.
In a report made available by its Director-General Audrey Azoulay he noted that most victims of the fraud live in France, and many have links to Francophone African countries.
Azoulay said, “artefacts worth over one million euros had been stolen from the continent. Cultural theft as is a lucrative global scourge that was in most cases connected to other forms of organised crime, including terrorism”, he said.
“It is 50 years since an international Convention was adopted to combat the illicit traffic in cultural property.
“Although African cultural heritage has long been the victim of looting and destruction, the Middle East has become a recent target in connection with conflict in Iraq and Syria.
“The illicit trade is also growing on the internet, where tracing origins and intermediaries is difficult”.
Also UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Culture, Ernesto Ramirez added that illicit trafficking in cultural property is a worldwide, lucrative scourge linked to other forms of organised crime, including the financing of terrorism.
“Not only is it rife in Africa, whose cultural heritage has long been the victim of looting and destruction, but it has exploded more recently in the Middle East in connection with the conflicts in Iraq and Syria,”