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Joint Customs Operation: COLOSSEUM

Some 32 illegally trafficked artifacts were seized in this joint customs operation which, as the first such operation combating illegal trafficking of cultural goods in the EU, increased awareness of this phenomenon and techniques to prevent it.

Project dates 01/05/2011 - 30/06/2012
TopicCustoms Cooperation
Total budget€106 833
EU contribution95%
Project CoordinatorItalian Customs Agency (Italy)
Project partnersCustoms Administrations of Cyprus, Greece and Malta

Project Description

COLOSSEUM was a joint customs operation aimed at combating illegal trafficking of cultural goods both within the EU and exported to or imported from non-EU countries. The operation was organised in the framework of the Customs Cooperation Working Party (CCWP) of the EU Council.

Also participating were the WCO Regional Intelligence Liaison Office for Western Europe, Interpol, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), the European Commission’s Taxation and Customs Union Directorate-General (TAXUD), the International Council of Museums, the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and the Italian ‘Guardia di Finanza’.

Benefits and results

COLOSSEUM made a series of checks and carried out a total of 32 seizures. These included 6th Century BC helmets and gold masks, antique Greek coins and ancient books.

Beside the seizures, the project also increased knowledge of the threat of the international cross-border illicit trafficking of cultural goods.

A guidance handbook was produced on customs checks targeting illicit trafficking of antiquities and works of art in general. The guide provides a list of the main EU and international legislative measures on cooperation, guidance on analysis methods with the relevant risk indicators, and advice about control methodologies and techniques to detect this kind of fraud.

Following the operation, recommendations were made on possible future operations and establishing a network of cultural experts to help prevent cultural heritage being illegally trafficked.

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