Louvre ex-director charged in art trafficking case

Published May 27, 2022
A Dec 2, 2016, file photo shows Jean-Luc Martinez, the Louvre Museum’s director, addressing a conference in Abu Dhabi.—AFP
A Dec 2, 2016, file photo shows Jean-Luc Martinez, the Louvre Museum’s director, addressing a conference in Abu Dhabi.—AFP

PARIS: A former director of the Louvre Museum in Paris has been charged with conspiring to hide the origin of archaeological treasures that investigators suspect were smuggled out of Egypt in the chaos of the Arab Spring, a French judicial source said on Thursday.

Jean-Luc Martinez was charged after being taken in for questioning along with two French specialists in Egyptian art, who were not charged, another source close to the inquiry said.

The Louvre, which is owned by the French state, is the world’s most visited museum with around 10 million visitors a year before the Covid-19 pandemic and is home to some of Western civilisation’s most celebrated cultural heritage. The museum declined to comment when contacted.

French investigators opened the case in July 2018, two years after the Louvre’s branch in Abu Dhabi bought a rare pink granite stele depicting the pharaoh Tutankhamun and four other historic works for eight million euros ($8.5 million).

Martinez, who ran the Paris Louvre from 2013 to 2021, is accused of turning a blind eye to fake certificates of origin for the pieces, a fraud thought to involve several other art experts, according to French investigative weekly Canard Enchaine.

He has been charged with complicity in fraud and “concealing the origin of criminally obtained works by false endorsement,” according to the judicial source.

Martinez is currently the French foreign ministry’s ambassador in charge of international cooperation on cultural heritage, which focuses in particular on fighting art trafficking.

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2022

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