Protecting Cultural Heritage Against Illicit Trade of Art Trafficking
October 22, 2015
As the Middle East’s incredibly rich heritage is systematically plundered and sold off to fetch millions, Tasoula Hadjitofi, a refugee and the founder of the organization "Walk of Truth," explores what can be done to prevent and combat this illicit trade. What can we in the west do to protect the history and identity of an entire people from wholesale looting and acts of barbarism? In her work, Hadjitofi urges the world to recognize looting and destruction of cultural heritage as a crime against humanity. She calls for better coordination of laws and law enforcement, and seeks closer cooperation with the art trade. In this talk, Hadjitofi shared the lessons learned from her own experience of tracking and repatriating antiquities looted from Cyprus, explored how cultural heritage can contribute to peace and reconciliation in former conflict zones, and revealed Walk of Truth’s ambitious plans to fight the illegal trade in stolen art by engaging the public.
H.E. Mr. George Chacalli, Ambassador of Cyprus to the United States
Ambassador George Chacalli offered welcoming remarks. He has previous experience in the US, as well as wide-ranging service in the European Union, the United Kingdom, Scandinavia, and Eastern Europe. This is Mr. Chacalli’s second posting to Washington. From 1997 through 2001, he served first as Counselor/Congressional Liaison and then as Deputy Chief of Mission in Cyprus’ Embassy to the United States. Before arriving for his new posting in Washington, Mr. Chacalli served as Ambassador to Sweden, with accreditation to Norway and Latvia, from 2010 to 2013. From 2004 through 2006, he served as Ambassador to Hungary, with accreditation to Moldova and Bosnia/Herzegovina.
Mr. Chacalli has many years of experience with the European Union, serving as Cyprus’ Ambassador/Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU from 2006 through 2010. During 2006, he also headed the EU Internal Market Unit in the EU Affairs Division in the Cyprus Ministry of Foreign Affairs. From 2001 through 2003, he worked in the EU Affairs Division in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, serving first as Secretary of the Cyprus Delegation to the Convention on the Future of Europe. and later as Cyprus’ Representative to the Intergovernmental Council of the EU.
At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Nicosia, Mr. Chacalli worked in the Political Affairs Division in the Middle East Desk from 1996 through 1997 and as Attaché in the Cyprus Question Department from 1989 through 1991. From 1991 through 1996, he served as First Secretary for Political and Commonwealth Affairs for the Cyprus High Commission in London.
Educated in the UK and in Belgium, Mr. Chacalli earned a Master of Laws Degree from the University of Cambridge in 1987; an MA in International Relations from the University of Kent in 1986; a Bachelor of Arts degree in Politics and Law from the University of Kent in 1985; and a Diplome d/Etudes in Economics from the Universite Catholique de Louvain in 1982.
Fluent in English and French, as well as his mother tongue, Greek, and conversant in German and Spanish, Mr. Chacalli has worked as a freelance translator. In 2006, the President of Hungary awarded Mr. Chacali the Commander’s Cross, Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary (Civil Division).
Matthew Douglas Adams, Senior Research Scholar, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University
Matthew Douglas Adams is Senior Research Scholar at NYU’s Institute of Fine Arts, where he is also Associate Director/Field Director of the IFA’s longstanding archaeological field project at Abydos, Egypt. Abydos suffered significant looting during the 2011 uprising in Egypt, and Dr. Adams has led efforts both to document the nature and extent of the looting damage and, in collaboration with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, to develop local initiatives that aim to build a more secure future for the site. Dr. Adams holds a dual-Ph.D., in Anthropology and Egyptology, from the University of Pennsylvania.
Tasoula Hadjitofi, Founder, Walk of Truth
Born in Cyprus, Tasoula Hadjitofi served as Honorary Consul of Cyprus in her adopted country of The Netherlands, a position she used to seek justice for the looting of Cyprus’s cultural heritage through repatriation of its stolen religious artifacts. Hadjitofi began her work repatriating stolen objects in the early 1980s, and is best known for orchestrating the Munich Case, one of the largest art trafficking sting operations in European history. Her efforts led to the arrest of the Turkish art smuggler Aydin Dikmen and the confiscation of over $60 million worth of looted artifacts from Cyprus and around the world. Herself a refugee of the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus, Hajitofi is the former representative of the Autocephalous Church of Cyprus for stolen art, and founder of the organization Walk of Truth, which seeks to create reforms to protect cultural heritage in areas of conflict.
Dr. Alexander Nagel, Research Associate, Smithsonian Instituiton's National Museum of Natural History
Originally from Berlin, Germany, Dr. Alexander Nagel is a Research Associate at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. Nagel received an MA from Humboldt-University Berlin in 2003, and a PhD from the University of Michigan in 2010. He is supporting the work of communities who preserve heritage sites and document the illicit trade in antiquities, and has lectured on heritage preservation of Yemen, Greece, Iran and the Middle East worldwide.