OCBC – Illegal trafficking of cultural goods

Fighting the looting and trafficking of archaeological objects

Illegal trafficking in cultural property remains one of the most important global trafficking activities in terms of profits generated. France and Italy, with their extremely rich heritage, are the two European countries that are the main victims of cultural property theft. Private residences are the main targets of criminals, particularly castles and bourgeois houses, but also churches and sometimes small museums, which are less closely watched.

Fully committed to the fight against organised crime, France created the OCBC – Office Central de Lutte contre le trafic de Biens Culturels – in 1975.  This governmental entity, which is attached to the judicial police, deals with complex investigations into theft and handling of cultural property, but also cases of forgery, organised fraud and money laundering on a national and international scale. The OCBC is particularly active in the fight against the looting and trafficking of archaeological property from conflict zones.

As part of these actions, the OCBC created the TREIMA database in 1995 – Thesaurus de recherche électronique et d’imagerie en matière artistique.  This database of images of works is regularly updated with photographs of cultural property stolen in France and abroad when a disappearance is reported. This database currently contains more than 100,000 images.



Performance indicators

100 000 images
Reduction of theft
Client for 17 years

The use of computer vision technology by OCBC

To speed up their investigative work, OCBC looked for an image and object processing technology brick to integrate into their product environment. They decide to use on LTU’s visual recognition using unique signature, available as an OnPremise license, the organisation facilitates investigative work, searching its database to compare it to a recovered work and find the associated case.

The OCBC works closely with Interpol, Europol and European countries such as Italy.

The collaboration has proven to be effective, as over the last decade there has been a noticeable decrease in the number of theft incidents in churches. From more than 6000 thefts in the 2000s, this figure now fluctuates between 800 and 1500 thefts per year throughout the country. The identification and restitution of stolen objects are constantly increasing, the result of intense documentation work and the dissemination of information, in particular through cultural or police databases.