Trade-based money laundering (TBML) in the high-end art and antiquities market is attracting increasing attention from criminals and legislators according to a partner at US law firm, Ballard Spahr.

Writing for The National Law Review, Peter D Hardy says money launderers are attracted to the market because prices for such objects steadily rise and a tightening global enforcement and regulatory net has rendered other possible avenues for money laundering increasingly less attractive.

Proposed legislation

Legislators are also looking at the market. Hardy notes that in the US, the House Financial Services Committee has released three proposed bills to codify many of the reform ideas for the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) and Anti Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism laws.

One of the bills seeks to expand the list of defined “financial institutions” covered by the BSA to include “dealers in art or antiquities.”

Freeport abuse

The US lawyer also focuses on the use of freeports in art and antiquities TBML schemes.

Much of the art bought at auctions goes to these ultra-secure warehouses for the collections of millionaires and billionaires, ranging from Picassos and gold to vintage Ferraris and fine wine.

Treasure troves

The freeports in Switzerland, Luxembourg and Singapore offer a variety of tax advantages because the goods stored in them are technically in transit.

According to The Economist magazine, the Swiss freeport near Geneva airport alone is thought to hold US$100 billion of art.

Peter D Hardy’s article, Art and Money Laundering can be found here.