The International Criminal Police Commission (ICPC) was created in 1923 with headquarters in Vienna, Austria, on the initiative of Dr Johannes Schober, president of the Vienna Police.
In 1956, following the adoption of a modernized constitution, the ICPC becomes the International Criminal Police Organization-INTERPOL, abbreviated to ICPO–INTERPOL or just INTERPOL. The Organization becomes autonomous by collecting dues from member countries and relying on investments as the main.
Today INTERPOL is the world’s largest international police organization, with 190 member countries, and its role is to enable police around the world to work together to make the world a safer place. Its high-tech infrastructure of technical and operational support helps meet the growing challenges of fighting crimes that have a transnational dimension and require a global response. Its Headquarters, the General Secretariat, is located in Lyon, France, and each member country maintains a National Central Bureau (NCB) staffed by national law enforcement officers.
The NCB is the designated contact point for the General Secretariat, INTERPOL’s regional bureaus and member countries law Agencies requiring assistance with transnational inquiries.
INTERPOL works to prevent and investigate a wide range of crimes, delivering tangible initiatives and making a real difference to international cooperation, and in order to better achieve these purposes 16 main crime areas have been identified, including crimes against cultural goods. Since 1947, INTERPOL has invested a lot of efforts in this field with the creation of a specialized unit dedicated to assisting law enforcement globally on this matter: the Works of Art Unit. Its role in fighting against illicit traffic of cultural heritage consist in:
- centralizing information supplied by INTERPOL National Central Bureaus and other partners involved in countering the illicit trade of cultural property;
- transmitting information received to member countries and official partners as rapidly as possible;
- developing tools to enable member countries to counter the traffic in cultural property;
- organizing international conferences, either in Lyon or in member countries;
- organizing training courses on countering the traffic in cultural property; maintaining a close working relationship with the international organizations involved in countering the traffic in cultural property as UNESCO, WCO, ICOM who have also signed memoranda of understanding with INTERPOL;
- participating in international conferences and workshops throughout the world.