The Carabinieri Headquarters for the Protection of Cultural Heritage (Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale - TPC) was instituted in 1969, one year prior to the UNESCO Paris Convention in 1970, whereby all UNESCO member States were invited to institute specific services with a view to protecting the cultural heritage of the individual nations.
The TPC is a part of the Ministry of Culture and plays a role regarding the safety and protection of the national cultural heritage, through the prevention and repression of the multiple interrelated criminal activities.
According to the italian legislation, regarding the protection of cultural heritage the Carabinieri TPC is the centre of information and analysis for all Italian law enforcement agencies.
The organizational chart foreseen, at central level, a Staff Office and an Operational Department (split into three Sections: Archaeology, Antique, Modern Art and Counterfeiting) and, on a territorial level, 12 Branches with regional or interregional jurisdiction plus a Sub-Unit in Sicily.
As regards its international scope, in addition to working in the sphere of international police cooperation by INTERPOL, the TPC has other responsibilities, such as providing specialized support to peace-keeping operations, such as in Iraq from 2003 to 2006; training of police officers and customs officials in countries that submit such a request; consulting to the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities, in respect of activities centred on retrieving archaeological relics belonging to the national heritage and exhibited in museums and private collections abroad.
Since the 1980s, the TPC has been using an auxiliary instrument in its investigations: the “Database of illegally removed cultural artefacts”, provided by Article 85 of the Legislative Decree no. 42 dated 22 January 2004 (Code of the Cultural and Landscape Heritage), which contains information on the artefacts to recover, of Italian or foreign provenance, and on related criminal events. The use of sophisticated computer technology has made the database as reference point for the entire Headquarters and for the other Italian and foreign law-enforcement agencies allowing to conduct a careful analysis of criminal phenomenon concerning the illicit trafficking of cultural property.