Summary of “The high-stakes race to stop the trafficking of priceless artefacts”

Hidalgo’s source suspected that the painting had been stolen.
In October 2016, Hidalgo and his team, frustrated by the continuing trafficking of his country’s cultural patrimony, launched Memoria Robada, the first big-data investigation into the trafficking of artefacts from Latin America.
“Some pieces which were probably stolen that night, or soon after that night, are still on the market,” says Hidalgo.
According to Hidalgo, it was taken down when a group of lawyers tried to sue the church, which they claimed was involved in trafficking.
“If you steal a book from the 16th century and that book has not been officially declared part of cultural patrimony, you could only be charged with theft like if you have stolen a present-day pair of shoes, or a lamp, or any book,” Hidalgo says.
Hidalgo traced the photograph of the Virgen de Guadalupe in the screenshot back to Fred Truslow, a US lawyer who had taken it in the 80s while compiling a catalogue of more than 2,000 paintings in Peru’s churches.
There is always a way to justify owning a stolen artefact, Hidalgo says.
“Private owners might say, ‘Well, I bought it 30 years ago and I had no clue that it was a stolen piece,’ or, ‘It was in the will of my grandfather and I received it as a gift.'” Hidalgo does not believe that the Diocese were complicit in the trafficking, but he does believe they are in possession of a stolen painting.

The orginal article.