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A French court charged the former head of the Louvre museum in Paris with fraud this week over his alleged role in trafficking millions of dollars worth of art, the Washington Post reported.
The court accused Jean-Luc Martinez of “complicity in fraud” and “false facilitation of the ‘origin of property derived from a crime or misdemeanor.’” The defendant allegedly ignored documents on the provenance of a number of Egyptian artifacts sold for $8.5 million in 2016 to the Louvre Abu Dhabi.
Among the antiquities in question is a pink granite stele with a decree by Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamen guaranteeing the protection of a high priest, dating to 1327 BCE.
The former head of the Louvre denied the charges.
Authorities opened their probe against Martinez and two other suspects in 2018. Since then, the two individuals were released without charges. But in March, police detained gallery owner Roben Dib, who brokered the deal.
Dib is accused of involvement in other related cases, including the sale of a stolen ancient Egyptian stele to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The city later returned the stele to Egypt.
Investigators believe that hundreds of artifacts from Egypt and the Middle East were stolen during the chaos of the 2011 Arab Spring.
Martinez ran the Louvre in Paris from 2013 to 2021. He is now serving as the French Foreign Ministry’s envoy in charge of international cooperation on cultural heritage, a position that handles art trafficking.