By Shweta Desai
PARIS (AA) - The former head of the Louvre Museum in Paris was indicted on charges of criminally trafficking antiques, including a stone slab of the royal Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun, French media reported Thursday.
A Paris court opened an investigation into the trafficking of antiquities from North Africa and the Middle East and indicted Jean-Luc Martinez for "money laundering and complicity in organized fraud,” Le Parisien news reported.
Martinez, the director of the Louvre from 2013 to 2021 and currently holding the post of France’s envoy for international cooperation in the field of heritage, has been released but placed under judicial supervision, the report added.
The weekly Le Canard Enchaine reported that Martinez and Vincent Rondot from Louvre’s Egyptian antiquities department and Olivier Perdu, an Egyptologist from the College de France, were taken into police custody on May 23 by the Central Office for the Fight Against Trafficking in Cultural Property. The two French Egyptologists have been released without charges for now.
The trio is suspected to have been involved in the trafficking of antique works, including a stone slab of Tutankhamun acquired by the Louvre’s Abu Dhabi branch in 2016.
The Le Canard report claimed Martinez "turned a blind eye" to false certificates of origin for five pieces of Egyptian antiquity, including a pink granite stele of Tutankhamun purchased "for several tens of millions of euros."
The valuable artifacts are suspected to have been "laundered" from archaeological objects looted in the conflict and war-ravaged countries of North Africa and the Middle East, like Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Iraq, and Syria.
France is a huge sector for antiques, and organized trafficking could concern hundreds of pieces worth millions of euros, the Le Parisien report said.
A judicial investigation is already underway into the suspected trafficking of antiquities from unstable countries in 2018. At least three other people were prosecuted for “organized gang fraud, criminal association, and organized gang money laundering.”