Twitter: Elon Musk is accused of manipulating the market

The judiciary’s probe into a huge trade in looted antiques in the Middle East is interested in the role of former Louvre Museum president and director Jean-Luc Martinez. He was charged on Wednesday with money laundering and aiding and abetting organized fraud.

Jean-Luc Martinez, who spent eight years at the helm of the world’s largest museum, was taken into police custody Monday at the headquarters of the Central Office for Combating Trafficking in Cultural Property, according to a source familiar with the matter.

He was charged late Wednesday afternoon with “complicity in organized gang fraud and money laundering by falsely facilitating the origin of property from a felony or misdemeanor,” a court source said Thursday. He was placed under judicial supervision.

Mr Martinez, 58, “denies with the utmost determination his questioning in this case,” his lawyers, Me Jacqueline Laffont and Me François Artuphel, told AFP. “He is reserving his testimony for the time being before the courts and has no doubt that his good faith will be proven,” they added.

The former head of the Louvre from 2013 to summer 2021 is now ambassador for international cooperation in the field of cultural heritage.

Two Egyptologists freed

Two prominent French Egyptologists, who were also taken into custody on Monday, have since been released without charge, the justice source said.

According to the French weekly Le Canard enchaîné, which announced the custody, investigators are trying to determine whether Mr Martinez “turned a blind eye” to fake proofs of origin of five pieces of Egyptian antiquities sold “for tens of euros”. million euros” of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the branch of the Paris Museum in the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

Among those pieces is a pink granite stele engraved with King Tutankhamun’s name, “an exceptional object,” according to Egyptologist Marc Gabolde, quoted by French daily Le Monde.

It was he who, according to the newspaper, drew the attention of the other two Egyptologists to the dubious origin of the stele in a note in early 2019. The two specialists then sent the document to Mr. Martinez. When asked by AFP, the management of the Louvre did not want to respond.

Hundreds of looted coins

In July 2018, the Paris public prosecutor’s office discreetly opened preliminary proceedings on suspicion of dealing in antiques from the Middle East.

Since February 2020, an investigating judge has been conducting an open judicial investigation into concealment of gang theft, criminal association, money laundering and gang fraud, forgery and use of documents and failure to mention the seller in the register of movable property.

That deal would involve hundreds of pieces and tens of millions of euros, according to sources close at the time. The facts had come to light in June 2020 during a devastating raid on the quiet surroundings of Paris’ art market and antique dealers.

An expert in Mediterranean archeology, Christophe Kunicki, and her husband Richard Semper, a merchant, had been charged and placed under judicial supervision. These two respected figures of the world of antiquities in the French capital are suspected of having “laundered” archaeological objects looted in several countries plagued by instability since the early 2010s: Egypt, Libya, Yemen or Syria.

Last March, Roben Dib, owner of a gallery in Hamburg (Germany), was also charged and taken into custody.

The Central Office for Combating the Illegal Trade in Cultural Goods is trying to clarify the conditions for the acquisition of the five antiques illegally brought from Egypt by the Louvre Abu Dhabi through this German-Lebanese gallery owner, according to the Chained Duck.

The names of Mr Kunicki and Mr Semper had previously been mentioned in the case of the sarcophagus of priest Nedjemankh, which was sold by Mr Kunicki to the Met in New York in 2017 for €3.5 million.

An investigation revealed that the object was stolen in 2011, the year of the uprising against President Hosni Mubarak. This sarcophagus was finally ceremonially returned to Egypt in 2019.

This article was published automatically. Sources: ats/afp

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