The Ministry of Culture and the Quai d'Orsay spare Jean-Luc Martinez despite his indictment

The Ministry of Culture and the Quai d’Orsay spare Jean-Luc Martinez despite his indictment

Since his indictment on May 25 for “laundering and complicity in organized fraud”, the former president of the Louvre Jean-Luc Martinez has so far been spared by his guardianship. Suspected by the courts of having shown at best negligence, at worst complicity, in the purchase in 2016, by the Louvre Abu Dhabi of a royal stele which turns out to have been looted in Egypt, the curator has kept his post of thematic ambassador. The Ministry of Culture and the Quai d’Orsay have barely set him back on his mission to fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural property.

At the same time, the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Zones, of which Jean-Luc Martinez was hitherto president of the scientific committee, took a similar decision. “We asked him to stand down until we get more information, and he left his post voluntarily,” says Jean-Claude Gandur, who leads the ethics committee of this foundation under Swiss law, created in 2017 at the initiative of France and the United Arab Emirates. This collector is no less convinced than the former president of the Louvre “is not a corrupt or frivolous man”. He says it all the more willingly since he was also fooled by the same network of traffickers accused of having sold looted objects with falsified provenance documents to the Louvre Abu Dhabi and to the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

Read also: Antiquities trafficking: Jean-Luc Martinez dismissed from part of his duties as ambassador

Sprawling Folder

At the heart of this case, two men: Roben Dib, imprisoned since March in France, and Christophe Kunicki, indicted in 2020. The first, a merchant from Hamburg, teamed up with a family of dubious antique dealers, the Simonians, supplied objects the auctions that the second organized as an expert at Pierre Bergé & Associés. It is from one of these sales that comes an Egyptian funerary portrait called “Fayoum”, owned by Jean-Claude Gandur. The origin of the object is identical to that of the granite stele engraved with the name of Tutankhamun purchased by Abu Dhabi. Their provenance, namely the Behrens collection, in Bremen, and the Cairo merchant Habib Tawadros, raises doubts among Egyptologists. “As soon as the affair broke out, at the end of May, we immediately looked on the Internet to see if this Behrens could have existed, but we found no trace of him, says Jean-Claude Gandur. We start from the hypothesis that it is a pure and simple invention, or that he existed, but never collected. »

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