Former Louvre director charged with trafficking Egyptian antiques

i24NEWS - AFP

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President-Director of the Louvre Jean-Luc Martinez delivering a speech in Paris, France, on March 10, 2016.
ETIENNE LAURENT / POOL / AFPPresident-Director of the Louvre Jean-Luc Martinez delivering a speech in Paris, France, on March 10, 2016.

Investigators suspect Egypt’s artifacts were pillaged during the Arab Spring

The former head of the Paris Louvre museum Jean-Luc Martinez was charged with conspiracy over the origin of Egyptian archaeological treasures that were bought by Louvre Abu Dhabi and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. 

Martinez ran the Louvre from 2013 to 2021. In 2016 the museum’s branch in Abu Dhabi bought a rare pink granite stele depicting pharaoh Tutankhamun and four other Egyptian antiques for $8.5 million. French investigators suggest those artifacts were illegally taken out of the country during the Arab Spring uprisings and sold to museums under fake certificates.

Art purchases made by the Louvre Abu Dhabi have to receive approval from a joint governmental commission chaired by the director of the Paris Louvre. Martinez is suspected of turning a blind eye on the fraudulent origin of the Egyptian art pieces. He was charged after being taken in for questioning on Wednesday.

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Investigation was open in 2018. Earlier two art dealers linked to selling antiques to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Louvre Abu Dhabi were detained. In March, Hamburg-based Roben Dib was charged with gang fraud and money laundering. In 2020, Paris-based dealer Christophe Kunicki was arrested and charged with criminal conspiracy, gang fraud, and laundering.

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