Buying art for the sake of art is an extreme sport, practiced infrequently. And while showing off a sculpture priced as much as a condo in New York isn’t a crime, doing it to conceal an illegal stash of cash is. However, transactions in the art trade aren’t regulated, making it difficult to spot the money laundering exercise that buying art has become. All of that will change in Britain, promises a new legislation that goes into effect this Friday.
Under this law, art buyers and sellers will need to be registered with the tax agency and establish their identity before they can purchase anything above 10,000 euros or $11,100 USD approximately. Usually, these identities remain anonymous, and dealers or auctioneers aren’t obligated to establish the identity of the person buying the art.
However, this law points to a drastic change in the way the U.K. art market functions, which is similar to the way the U.S. market currently works. Transactions will now clearly be traceable, and the identities of buyers and sellers cannot be hidden from the government. This will definitely make it hard for millionaires with loose moral compasses, like Malaysian businessman Jho Low, who spent $200 million of stolen public funds on his extensive art collection.
We’re not sure if the U.S. will follow suit, but the Treasury is on high alert, imposing sanctions on a blood diamond dealer, Nazem Said Ahmad, who funneled his cash into Picassos and Basquiats. Either way, keep your ID handy.