Former Louvre director Jean-Luc Martinez is further caught up on charges of widespread fraud and art theft. The French Ministry of Culture announced, on Friday, that he is no longer allowed to perform his work as the face of “the fight against the looted world art.”
It’s a new chapter in the story of the widespread art theft of Egyptian antiquities, in which Martinez, the former head of the Louvre, played an important role. He was director of the Louvre from 2013 to last year. The allegations relate to purchases by the Louvre branch in Abu Dhabi, where the emirate purchased works of art worth millions. The French judiciary launched an investigation into the possible trade in Egyptian antiquities.
In 2016, €15 million was easily put on the table for the purchase of five most prestigious Egyptian art treasures. This included thousands of years and a huge tomb stele of the pharaoh Tutankhamun.
An alarm bell went off among the specialists because there were doubts about the origin of the art. The French judiciary decided to open an investigation. It was suspected that the five Egyptian art treasures had been stolen during the Arab Spring and then sold, ending up on a wall in the Louvre Abu Dhabi.
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Jean-Luc Martinez has been officially identified as a suspect. He would have known, among other things, that Tutankhamun’s tombstone had been stolen, but he would have turned a blind eye.
He is formally suspected of “fraud in an organized context and money laundering of goods arising from a crime”. He does not have to go to prison, but has been placed under judicial supervision. Two specialists he worked with were also charged.
Martinez denies all allegations. He worked for the French government after his hiatus at the Louvre last year, including as an ambassador for international cooperation for World Heritage Sites. He also advocated fighting looted art. He has now been relieved of this position.
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