Jean-Luc Martinez, the former director of the Louvre museum in Paris, has reportedly been charged by a French court with complicity in organized fraud and money laundering in relation to objects that were allegedly smuggled out of Egypt and bought by the Louvre Abu Dhabi.
After being detained and interrogated for three days by the French law enforcement agency responsible for controlling the trafficking of illicit cultural property, known as OCBC, Martinez was formally charged on Wednesday, according to Journal of the Arts.
Martinez, who was director of the Louvre from 2013 to 2021, has been freed by authorities but is under judicial supervision, according to French media. Artnet News was unable to reach Martinez for comment, but he previously denied any wrongdoing at the art diary.
Alongside Martinez, the head of the Louvre’s Egyptian department, Vincent Rondot, and Olivier Perdu, an Egyptologist, were also arrested but released without charge. AP reports. lost Told The art diary that he had only been interrogated because Review of Egyptology, which he publishes on behalf of the Society of French Egyptologists, “published in 2019 a scientific article on the historical importance of a stele sold to the Louvre Abu Dhabi”.
The French media credit the satirical newspaper The chained Duck with an initial report on the investigation, claiming authorities are trying to find out if Martinez turned a blind eye to forged certificates of origin for five Egyptian antiquities acquired by Louvre Abu Dhabi “for several tens of millions of euros.” Among them is a pink granite stele inscribed with the name of Tutankhamun which is currently on display at Louvre Abu Dhabu, according to The world.
Founded in 2007, the Louvre Abu Dhabi project has come under scrutiny in the past over its acquisitions, all of which require the approval of a joint commission co-chaired by the director of Louvre Paris. Artnet News has contacted the Louvre in Paris (where there is a public holiday today), Louvre Abu Dhabi and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, but had not received a response at the time of publication. .
The investigation appears to be linked to Parisian art dealer Christophe Kunicki and German-Lebanese art dealer Roben Dib, whom authorities suspect of producing false documents to “launder” hundreds of antiquities looted from the Near and Middle East, according to The world.
Kunicki was also arrested and charged with fraud and money laundering in June 2020, around the same time the Louvre Abu Dhabi headquarters in Paris was raided by police and documents seized by the OCBC. Kunicki, who was released on bail and denied any wrongdoing, previously sold a gold sarcophagus worth $3.5 million to the Met, which was later seized by the Manhattan District Attorney , Cyrus Vance, and repatriated to Egypt in 2017.
Dib, who turned himself in to authorities, has been in custody since March, charged with gang fraud and money laundering. He also denied any wrongdoing in a previous interview with art diary.
The chained Duck reported that French investigators plan to travel to New York to exchange information with Matthew Bogdanos, head of the Manhattan prosecutor’s antiquities trafficking division, which has been investigating the alleged smuggling ring since 2013.
According to arts journal, citing According to a source familiar with the investigation, the Martinez case has been narrowed down to nine items purchased by the Met and Louvre Abu Dhabi from Kunicki and Dib for more than 50 million euros.
Since Martinez stepped down as director of the Louvre last year, he has served as an ambassador for international cooperation in the field of cultural heritage. He also worked on a report for French President Emmanuel Macron on the return of objects from national collections to African countries.
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