A French appeals court has upheld the charges against JeanLuc Martinez, former president and director at the Louvre in Paris for his alleged complicity with the trafficking in antiquities from Egypt.
Martinez was the Louvre’s director from 2013 to 2021. He was indicted for “complicity and fraud”, money laundering and “facilitating” artifact purchases linked to a large trafficking ring. This investigation has been ongoing for years. French authorities suspect that the network made up of smugglers, their accomplices and art and relics dealers sold to museums and galleries around the world. This includes the Louvre’s Abu Dhabi branch.
Martinez’s former colleague, Jean-Francois Charnier (archaeologist and curator), was also charged with his involvement in the operation. Both men are expected to appeal against the decision at France’s supreme Court, per Le Monde.
The shock of Charnier and Martinez’s first charges last year shocked the Parisian art community. France’s current ambassador for international cooperation in cultural heritage issues, Martinez, had spent his career preserving art in conflict zones and had written a report France presented to U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. It detailed new strategies to deter looting.
After a reexamination of all evidence, the public prosecutor asked for the dismissal of the charges against Martinez in November 2022. Martinez, an archeologist by training, was wrongly implicated in this case. A French law states that an indictment doesn’t guarantee that a defendant will be tried. However, a special magistrate can overturn any charges at any stage of the investigation.
According Le Monde in 2019, police became suspicious about the provenance a stone stele depicting Tutankhamen, which was purchased for the Louvre Abu Dhabi. It was still not open. Martinez, in his capacity as head at the Louvre chaired a joint government commission that required approval for the acquisition an object for the museum.
According to police, Martinez was suspected of signing off on multiple purchases, despite evidence that the relics had been stolen, including fake certificates of provenance, and fake export licenses.
Francois Artuphel was Martinez’s lawyer. He told Le Monde the court’s decision not to dismiss charges against Martinez “is unfounded” but that he and the client “have no doubt that the next stage of the process will re-establish the injustice.”