France is, along with Italy, one of the few countries of the world to require the keeping of a register of movable objects, also called a “police register”.
AN ELEMENT OF CONTROL OF THE ART MARKET
Keeping a police register allows to:
- Identify objects,
- Identify people: sellers or depositors.
The traceability of objects allows to fight against looting, concealment, counterfeit, fraud, money laundering, etc…
This register is one of the elements of the good faith of a professional.
The police register can be controlled by law enforcement agencies (police and customs’ services, etc):
- at any time during business opening hours,
- without any reason or justification by the official who controls.
This is an administrative control, which can result in offenses and criminal procedures.
CARACTERISTICS OF THE POLICE REGISTER
This register can be in paper or digital format.
It is listed and initialed by the superintendent or, if not possible, by the mayor of the municipality before its use.
It cannot be crossed out or blank, and must be written in indelible ink. The paper format must be kept 5 years and the electronic format 10 years.
Police register location:
- in the merchant’s establishment,
- one police register per establishment,
- for street vendors: at fairs or unpacking.
The police register may never leave the establishment. Officials should be able to present it at any time during store opening hours.
This is not an accounting document.
WHO IS SUBJECT TO KEEPING A POLICE REGISTER
- Sedentary merchants: second-hand dealers, antique dealers, some gallery owners, consignment shops.
- Street vendors
- Auction companies
- In general, all traders who resell or exchange second-hand goods (garage owners, machine-tool dealers, gunsmiths, etc.) or acquired from people who do not manufacture them (second-hand).
WHAT A POLICE REGISTER CONTAINS
- Number order: to be entered on each object, even those located in the reserves,
- Date of purchase, deposit or exchange
- Precise description of the object’s nature, dimension, signature and possibly distinctive signs. This description must allow LEAs to identify the object. Do not hesitate to add discriminating elements (describe the scene for a painting, the number of characters, an accident, a lack, etc.).Since May 2020, the “indication of its origin” must be added.
- What not to do: “a silver chalice”, ” a painting representing a religious scene”, ” a wooden sculpture”, etc…
- Last name, first name or company name of the seller, the depositor or the contributor to the exchange. Quality or profession. Domicile or registered office:
– particular: identity
– legal person: name and registered office of the latter, but also identity and domicile of the representative who carried out the transaction.
- What not to do: « Company LTD Wambanta, Cayman Islands ».
- Nature and number of the presented ID. Indications on the delivering authority and the date of delivery: the law authorizes consequently to ask for an ID.
- In fact, for any first transaction it is advisable to request an identity document, to note the appropriate mentions, and for the following transactions, it is possible to register Mr. Dupont “honorably known”.However, by carrying this mention, the merchant engages his responsibility.
- Purchase price (or market value): mention the method of payment (art. R321-5 of the French Criminal Code).
- Decision to classify or register the object (law of 31.12.1913).
Small items of less than 61 euros can be grouped together in lots on the register:
– book lots,
NON-COMPLIANCE WITH THE KEEPING OF THE POLICE REGISTER
- Not kept (even by negligence),
- Inaccurate statements,
- Refusal to present the register to the competent authority.
These breaches are criminal offenses assimilated to concealment: punishable by 6 months’ imprisonment and a fine of 30,000 euros.
WHAT FUTURE FOR THE POLICE REGISTER
In 2008, during the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union, France proposed the generalization of the keeping of the police register to all the countries of the European Union. This proposal was then rejected.
However, the police register is a traceability tool of major importance in the journey of an artwork. Its interest is no longer to be demonstrated. It therefore appears important or even necessary to convince all actors of the art market and legislators in Europe of the value of a European traceability tool in the fight against the trafficking of cultural goods and more particularly in the fight against trafficking of archaeological artefacts.