If most of our work is specialist but unexciting activities: surveillance for corporate clients who think they are being robbed, embezzled or suffering from commercial or industrial espionage, or seeking out lost relatives, cheating partners or dishonest household staff for private clients, sometimes we get to do something completely out of the ordinary – artefact hunting, for example!
Yes, donning our best Indiana Jones hats but leaving our rawhide whips at home, we’ve been exploring the murky regions of looting and pillaging. Now it might not seem like natural territory for a private detective, but Private Detective London knows that our capital city is the heartland of a rich trade in art, artefacts and archaeology – and that means that there will always be a few rotten apples in the barrel.
UNESCO has actually warned that in Iraq and Syria there is looting on ‘an industrial scale’ and we already know that the so-called Islamic State (IS) is destroying famous heritage sites and priceless works of art in territory it has overrun. What’s not so well known is that IS is financing its activities through the illegal sale of such items and that Roman, Greek, Byzantine and of course Islamic items are on open sale in London. Those buying such items are actually helping fund the fighters who are destroying such sites as Nimrod, in part to remove portable artefacts and sell them illegally.
There is little that can be done about heritage site looting, as Neil Brodie from the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research at Glasgow University points out – because currently there is no international strategy to tackle the problem.
However, the looting – or simple theft – of privately owned objects can be addressed and just as in the case of the Third Reich, which plundered many Jewish art collections, private investigators like us have already begun the process of tracking down priceless family carpets, vases and ceramic items in the hope that accurate identification will mean the pieces can be returned to their owners and – with any luck – the looters, or at least the middlemen who buy from them, will be brought to justice.
It’s definitely not ‘all in a day’s work’ but with our range of international contacts and our on-the-ground knowledge, our London office is well placed to help those who have fled Syria and Iraq to keep a watching brief on specific items they have lost or know were stolen from them. We may not be Indiana Jones, but we know how to help our clients regain what is rightfully theirs!