Art crime represents the third highest grossing criminal enterprise worldwide, behind only drugs and arms trafficking. It brings in $2-6 billion per year, most of which goes to fund international organized crime syndicates.
Most art crime since the 1960s is perpetrated either by, or on behalf of, international organized crime syndicates.* They either use stolen art for resale, or to barter on a closed black market for an equivalent value of goods or services. Individually instigated art crimes are rare, and art crimes perpetrated for private collectors are rarest of all.
One of the greatest problems is that neither the general public, nor government officials, realize the severity of art crime. Art crime funds all organized crime enterprises, including terrorism. And yet it is often dismissed as a victimless crime, because it is not understood.
Italy has by far the most art crime, with approximately 20,000 art thefts reported each year. Russia has the second most, with approximately 2000 art thefts reported per year. Italy is the only country whose government takes art crime as seriously as it should. Italy’s Carabinieri are by far the most successful art squad worldwide, employing over 300 agents full time. Other countries have had great success with their art squads, despite lack of governmental support, while many countries do not have a single officer dedicated to art crime, the third largest criminal enterprise worldwide.