Article: FinCEN Rules Seen As Potential ‘Killer’ Of Art, Antique Shops

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FinCEN Rules Seen As Potential ‘Killer’ Of Art, Antique Shops

Al Barbarino, 20 April 2021

The recent overhaul of federal anti-money laundering laws could drive small- and mid-sized antiquities and art shops out of business over what some experts believe are overblown links to terrorist financing and other illicit activity.

The rules in the works at the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network through the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2021 aim to uncover what lawmakers have argued is a billion-dollar industry for the illicit trade of antiques and fine art.

But if small businesses aren’t exempt, the rules would weaken a sector of the industry that is still reeling from the impacts of COVID-19 with costly and time-consuming reporting requirements, industry attorneys said.

“You can imagine small businesses looking at this and throwing up their hands … and I think it’s going to drive a lot of people out of business,” said Peter Tompa, executive director of the Global Heritage Alliance and a private attorney specializing in the trade of cultural artifacts.

The sweeping NDAA changes aim to clamp down on money laundering in part through the development of a new system requiring companies to report so-called beneficial ownership information, a move that attorneys believe will provide critical information for banks and regulators to thwart criminals looking to move dirty money.

But following years of arguments that the opaque nature of the antiquities trade has funded terrorist groups, the legislation also enlists FinCEN to craft rules incorporating antiquities dealers into the definition of “financial institution” under the Bank Secrecy Act.

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