He Was Head of the Louvre. Now He's Been Charged

Jean-Luc Martinez ran world's most-visited museum from 2013 to 2021
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 26, 2022 3:47 PM CDT
He Was Head of the Louvre. Now He's Been Charged
Jean-Luc Martinez poses during a visit of the Louvre museum Tuesday, June 23, 2020, in Paris.   (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File)

(Newser) – It's an ignoble development for the man who once helmed Paris' Louvre. Former museum president Jean-Luc Martinez was this week questioned by police and then charged with complicity in fraud and "concealing the origin of criminally obtained works by false endorsement." The Guardian reports the case involves items that were possibly spirited out of Egypt during the Arab spring unrest, and calls it a case "that has shocked the world of antiquities." The investigation began in July 2018; Martinez's tenure at the museum ran from 2013 to 2021. The Guardian references the Louvre Abu Dhabi's 2016 purchase of "a rare pink granite stele [slab] depicting the pharaoh Tutankhamun" and four other antiquities for north of $8 million.

A report in a French investigative weekly suggests it's possible Martinez is suspected of having "turned a blind eye" to fake certificates of origin for the five antiquities. The Paris prosecutor’s office said two members of the Louvre's Egyptian antiquities department were also taken into custody this week but released without charge, reports the AP. Martinez previously denied any wrongdoing. The Art Newspaper's source says it's thought Martinez may not have thoroughly considered concerns Marc Gabolde from the University of Montpellier raised about the conditions under which the stele was exported in 1933 by an officer of the German navy.

But Gabolde has apparently said he believes "Egyptologists and curators were cheated by thugs and were not accomplices of the traffickers, but their victims." Martinez is currently France's ambassador for international cooperation in the field of heritage and is overseeing a report on restitutions to African countries. (Read more The Louvre stories.)

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