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Statutory protection of cultural heritage


Criminal law also protects cultural heritage, broadly understood both as cultural assets (i.e., immovable and movable assets that have artistic, historical, archaeological, ethnic, anthropological, archival and bibliographic value) and as landscape assets (buildings and areas that reflect the historical, cultural, natural, morphological and aesthetic value of the territory).

The particular value of these assets requires additional protection. Thus, in addition to ordinary safeguards put in place for movable assets (theft, fencing, damaging, etc.), cultural assets are subject to special and reinforced protection, now included – as a result of the reform introduced by law no.22 of 9 March 2022 – in the new Title VIII bis of the penal code, titled “Crimes against cultural heritage”. The multiple incriminating rules (articles 518 bis – 518 quaterdecies) have partly been introduced and partly tie in with cases that had already been provided for by the supplementary legislation (in particular by leg. decree no. 42 of 22 January 2004, termed “Code of cultural and landscape heritage“, which continues to offer protection to landscape assets, too). Some of the most important innovations the very recent reform of crimes against cultural heritage has introduced include: the crimes of laundering and self-laundering of cultural assets, the provision of special aggravating and mitigating circumstances, the broader scope of application of confiscation known as extended confiscation, and the expansion of the catalogue of predicate offences with regard to the liability of entities per leg. decree 231/2001.


Some of the main cases established by the Code of Cultural Heritage and Landscape specifically concern the purchase and sale of cultural assets and their exportation and sale abroad. These rules are of particular interest also in the field of the art market, which increasingly requires specific support to ensure the correct circulation of the goods with regard to their authenticity, lawful origin, and correctness of the procedures adopted for sale and delivery. In this specific area, money-laundering laws, which have been recently integrated with the provision of auction houses as subjects obliged to fulfil the obligations provided for by legislative decree 231/2007, have also gained importance.

Even the rules on landscape protection require a careful assessment of their applicability to specific cases, in the light of the intertwining – not always orderly – of regulations of various origin and levels that have been established to protect particularly valuable areas of the national territory.


Baccaredda Boy Law Firm offers its professional advice in this field, supporting and collaborating with established professionals in the national and international art and antiques market, offering the skills necessary to comply with current regulations, while assisting, where necessary, with the competent authorities.

Over the years, Baccaredda Boy Law Firm has provided legal assistance in various proceedings relating to statutory protection of cultural heritage, including cases of counterfeiting of works of art or disputes over the buying and selling of goods.