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Former Louvre director charged in fraud, trafficking case

Former Louvre director charged in fraud, trafficking case
Former Louvre director Jean-Luc Martinez (right), pictured in 2019 dedicating the museum's conservation building, was charged late Wednesday after an investigation into fraud and antiquities trafficking. Photo courtesy of the Louvre/Twitter

May 26 (UPI) -- A former director of the Louvre Museum in Paris is facing charges related to trafficking and fraud accusations.

Jean-Luc Martinez was charged Wednesday night, following a multi-year investigation into alleged trafficking of antiquities from the Middle East, The Art Newspaper reported, citing an "official legal source."

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The famed French museum had not issued a comment as of 2 pm EDT Thursday.

Martinez is charged with "complicity in organized fraud." The charges are allegedly related to antiquities purchased by the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Martinez oversaw the museum between 2013 and 2021.

Two of his colleagues, specializing in Egyptology, also were detained, but released without being charged.

Police took Martinez in for questioning Monday as part of a larger investigation, which also involves artifacts sold to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the publication ARTnews reported.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi opened in 2007, and its acquisitions must receive approval from a joint commission co-chaired by the Louvre director, the post Martinez held until 2021.

The investigation is focused on accusations Martinez did not listen to concerns or properly inspect an Egyptian sele, a historical monument, later purchased by the Abu Dhabi museum, according to The Art Newspaper.

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Martinez is currently a French special ambassador for cooperation on cultural heritage.

He dedicated the Louvre's new conservation center in northern France in 2019, which is meant to protect thousands of priceless artworks previously stored in the museum's flood-prone basements.

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