Louvre Abu Dhabi named civil party in probe into alleged antiquity trafficking

French authorities are trying to affirm the origins of five Egyptian pieces the museum bought for Dh30.34 million


Mazhar Farooqui

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Published: Fri 17 Jun 2022, 2:45 PM

Abu Dhabi Louvre Abu Dhabi has become a civil party in a probe into the alleged trafficking of Egyptian antiquities.

The case has shocked the art world and garnered widespread media attention since the indictment of Jean-Luc Martinez, the former director of the Louvre - the world's most-visited museum and a historic landmark in Paris, France.

"Louvre Abu Dhabi confirms it has become a civil party in the ongoing French investigations related to the alleged trafficking of Egyptian antiquities," the museum said in a statement to Khaleej Times on Tuesday. However, it declined to provide any further comment, saying the matter is under investigation.

Jean-Luc Martinez, who led the Louvre from 2013 until last year, has been indicted with complicity of "gang fraud and laundering" of antiquities, which French investigators believe were smuggled from Egypt and then purchased by the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

French authorities are trying to find out the origin of five pieces of Egyptian antiquity reportedly purchased by the Louvre Abu Dhabi for Dh30.34 million.

Among these archaeological treasures is a pink granite stele engraved with the name of Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun.

The gallery owner who brokered the sale was arrested in Hamburg in March this year and extradited to Paris for questioning.

French authorities, who launched their investigation in 2018, suspect that hundreds of artefacts were pillaged during the Arab spring protests and subsequently sold to galleries and museums that neither asked too many questions about the artefacts' previous ownership nor closely examined their certificates of origin.

Martinez has denied any wrongdoing. Earlier this month, the embattled former Louvre director was temporarily suspended from his duties by the French Ministry of Culture. Ironically, he was also entrusted with combating art trafficking until last week.

The Ministry of Culture said they are "awaiting clarification on his legal situation."


Louvre Abu Dhabi's lawyer Jean-Jacques Neuer said earlier that it was inconceivable they don't constitute a civil party, as they were the first victim of the scandal.

"The Louvre Abu Dhabi is the victim of trafficking in Egyptian antiquities while it is a flagship cultural institution known around the world. As it has impeccable ethics on these subjects, it wishes to know exactly what happened and shed light on this case," Neuer said.

- mazhar@khaleejtimes.com

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