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Bad actors and faulty props: unlocking legal and illicit art trade


  • Gisela Bichler
  • Stacy Bush
  • Aili Malm


If as suspected, criminal enterprise feeds off legal trade, then anti-crime policy must target the points at which legal and illicit markets intersect. This study offers a strategy to pinpoint and calibrate the degree of fusion across an entire trade system. Legal and illicit processes and mechanisms essential to all sectors of an industry -- development, financing, handling, possession and regulation -- were dissected using a script methodology. Eigenvector centrality scores identified interlocking tools and actors. The results highlight the role played by supporting industries (e.g. insurers, auction houses, storage specialists, foundations and high net-worth buyers) and the need to target temporary markets, shipping activity and financial transactions with regulatory policing efforts. Vaccinating global economies from illicit activity is best achieved through a soft law approach aimed at identifiable mechanisms (faulty props) used by groups playing pivotal trade roles (bad actors).

Suggested Citation

  • Gisela Bichler & Stacy Bush & Aili Malm, 2013. "Bad actors and faulty props: unlocking legal and illicit art trade," Global Crime, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(4), pages 359-385, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:fglcxx:v:14:y:2013:i:4:p:359-385
    DOI: 10.1080/17440572.2013.828999

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Raymond Fisman & Shang-Jin Wei, 2009. "The Smuggling of Art, and the Art of Smuggling: Uncovering the Illicit Trade in Cultural Property and Antiques," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(3), pages 82-96, July.
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