PARIS – The former Louvre president has been accused of complicity in fraud and money laundering in connection with an investigation into Egyptian artifacts that have been trafficked over the past decade, French prosecutors said Thursday.
Jean Luc Martinezwho was president and director of the Louvre from 2013 to 2021, was released under judicial supervision after being charged, the Paris prosecutor’s office said.
Under the French legal system, the charges against Mr. Martinez indicate that investigators suspect him of being involved in a crime, but he may not necessarily be on trial. The charges could be dropped at any time if police discover new evidence. Complex legal investigations often take several years to take place in France.
Louvre representatives declined to comment on Thursday. Mr. Martinez’s lawyers were not immediately reachable for comment, but told Agence France-Presse they had firmly contested the allegations.
“For now he is keeping his statements for the judiciary and he has no doubts that his good faith will be established,” Jacqueline Laffont and François Artuphel, Martinez’s lawyers, told the news agency.
The allegations were an extraordinary turn of events for Martinez, who is currently France’s official ambassador for international cooperation on heritage issues and has spearheaded efforts to safeguard artifacts at risk of looting and destruction in conflict zones. during his stay in the Louvre.
Mr. Martinez had written to report which France submitted to the United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organization in 2015 which included 50 proposals, such as digital mapping of threatened sites and increased border controls, to protect antiquities from looters .
Two French Egyptologists were also questioned by police in connection with the case, but were released without charge, the prosecutor’s office said. According to Le Mondein 2019, a colleague of Egyptologists warned them that he had become suspicious of the provenance of a stele of Tutankhamun that ended up in the Louvre in Abu Dhabi.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi said it was unable to comment on the specifics of the case due to the ongoing investigation.
“The Louvre Abu Dhabi applies a strict international protocol to the works of art entering the collection, as outlined in the intergovernmental agreement between Abu Dhabi and France, signed in 2007,” said the museum. “This protocol is strictly aligned with the 1970 UNESCO convention and follows the strictest standards of the world’s leading museums.”
Alex Marshall contributed reports from London.