Search for stolen or missing property
As a result of an intrusion into a place or site to steal one or more cultural property, the theft is a dated event and must result in a complaint. A disappearance is noted, without being able to be dated, and does not automatically give rise to a complaint at the time of the finding; some follow a particular event (fire, flood, conflict).
The heritage services of the Ministry of Culture recommend to the owners to file a complaint, with the required documentation, in order to preserve their rights, if the property is rediscovered in the art market. Indeed, if the initial act of theft is prescribed, possession of stolen property is a continuous offence and, in most cases (national treasures, including movable public property and movable historical monuments), the property concerned is imprescriptible.
The search for public cultural property, stolen or disappeared, involves an enlarged cooperation, in France and abroad, of the services of the Ministry of Culture and those of the police, gendarmerie and customs, magistrates, operators of the art market, with the expertise of academics and heritage professionals.
Documentation and dissemination of information are crucial in this area. The inventory and the periodic proofing (control of the presence and the state of conservation), provided by the professionals of the patrimony, allow to identify and to document old flights or disappearances.
The services of the Ministry of Culture, in headquarters as in the regional directorates of cultural affairs, mobilize with the owners to communicate the necessary documentation, as soon as possible, the Central Office for Combating Trafficking in Cultural Property (OCBC), which is part of the Central Directorate of the Judicial Police (Nanterre), the Central Criminal Intelligence Service (SCRC) of the National Gendarmerie (Pontoise), customs and courts. This compilation is essential for the rediscovery of stolen goods.
The Ministry of Culture’s heritage databases, accessible through the Open Heritage Platform, contribute to these reports. Thus, the Open Heritage Platform (POP) offers, on the simple search page, a filter "Missing or stolen items" for the bases JOCONDE (property of the museums of France) and PALISSY (movable objects protected as historical monuments).
The data, notably photographic, of stolen objects (with filing of complaint) are also recorded in the OCBC’s national database TREIMA II (electronic research thesaurus and artistic imagery), created in 1995, and in Interpol’s international database, accessible to the public since 2009 by accreditation.
For historical monuments and movable public goods, the Ministry of Culture draws up an assessment of thefts, disappearances, degradation and restitution of movable objects during the year, an indispensable tool for preventing and combating the trafficking of cultural goods.