US Treasury warns of illicit money percolating in high-end art

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non-fungible tokens, in a statement

The US Treasury Department is looking more closely at potential money laundering and the financing of terrorism through trading high-value art.

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The way art is bought and sold – and some of the participants involved – may make it attractive to criminals looking to launder money, according to a study published Friday by the Treasury department.

The high-dollar value of transactions, transportability of goods, a long-standing culture of privacy and the use of intermediaries such as advisers are all contributing factors. The emerging digital art market, such as the use of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), may also present new risks, according to the report.

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“As we tackle systemic challenges like corporate transparency and other loopholes that allow criminals to abuse the US financial system, we will look at what else might be needed to address money-laundering risks specific to other industries, including the art industry,” Scott Rembrandt, a Treasury official in the Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes, said in a statement.

The department’s larger regulatory agenda will aim to combat the use of shell companies, which are used to funnel cash, according to a person familiar with the matter.

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The department, which released the report as part of a new congressionally-mandated requirement, found that “while there is some evidence of money laundering risk in the high-value art market, there was limited evidence of terrorist financing risk.”

In general, the report found that entities that had higher annual sales turnover were at a greater risk of being taken advantage of by criminals.

Treasury issued a shortlist of recommendations to help combat money laundering in the art world, including enhanced training for law enforcement and customs officials, using the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network for information collection and enhanced due diligence, and applying suspicious activity reporting and know-your-customer procedures to certain art market participants.

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