It is currently widely recognised that the illicit trade of cultural objects, rather than a local phenomenon limited to the initiative of a few individuals, is a highly remunerative source of income for criminal organisations that have been taking advantage of the possibilities now offered by online auctions and social media visibility to expand further the already flourishing "grey market". The surge in illicitly sourced cultural property transactions has been facilitated by the overall shortcoming regulations existing for this market, the variability of national laws and the uncertainty in object traceability.
Against this background, RITHMS proposes an interdisciplinary approach made necessary by the transnational character of this crime and its links to other criminal networks. The project will define a replicable strategy to counter the challenges in addressing the illicit trafficking of stolen/looted cultural goods and investigate the mechanisms underpinning it, including its connection with organised crime.
RITHMS will foster cross-cutting research bringing together all the domains relevant to broaden our understanding of this type of crime (art market, criminology, law studies, forensic science, etc.).
Inputs from these fields will inform the theoretical framework underlying the development of a digital platform leveraging the methods of Social Network Analysis (SNA), which through people's relations and interactions helps better understand and foresee human behaviour.
Ultimately, RITHMS' interoperable digital Platform will be able to identify criminal networks and provide investigators with valuable intelligence on the activities and evolution of such organised or connected groups.