Security director warns against ‘financing terrorism’

In addition to art and antiques, Geneva's free port warehouses store jewellery, precious stones and metals, watches, cars, and millions of bottles of wine. Keystone

In an interview with the Sonntagszeitung on Sunday, Geneva’s security minister Pierre Maudet called for increased vigilance in keeping stolen Islamic State art out of Geneva’s free port warehouses.

This content was published on December 20, 2015 - 15:00 and agencies

"We have a large warehouse in Geneva, and 40 percent of the area is dedicated to storing art and antiques,” Maudet told the German-language newspaper, referring to the city’s famously vast facilities for the duty- and tax-free storage of valuables.

“We must ensure there is no stolen Islamic State art from Syria, for example from Palmyra, temporarily stored there. This is about the financing of terror.”

On Friday, the Swiss government announced the creation of 86 new posts dedicated to fighting terrorism. Maudet applauded the move, but warned that increasing staff numbers isn’t enough.

“We need better coordination and cooperation,” he said. “We must discuss this, especially in Switzerland, where the antiques market is relatively large.”

The city of Geneva has been on high alert – at a level of three out of five – since December 10, when the department of security announced a search for ‘suspects’ identified by Swiss federal authorities in connection with ongoing terrorism investigations. Two Syrian men were arrested the following day after traces of explosives were found in their car, and criminal proceedings have been opened against them under a law banning groups like al-Qaeda and Islamic State.

“By next week, we should be able to tell whether the threat has changed or not,” Maudet said. “If the situation relaxes, we may bring the alert from level three to level two”.

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