Louvre Advisors Detained in Art Trafficking Investigation

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The saga surrounding a world antiquities smuggling ring continues: Two best Louvre Abu Dhabi assortment advisors have been taken into custody by way of French government on Monday, July 24 for his or her doable function within the museum’s acquisition of trafficked Egyptian artifacts, as first reported by way of the French newspaper Libération. They're being investigated by way of France’s Central Place of work for the Struggle In opposition to Trafficking in Cultural Assets (OCBC).

Jean-François Charnier and Noëmi Daucé will likely be held for wondering for as much as 96 hours. This comes after the Louvre’s former president Jean-Luc Martinez used to be charged in Would possibly with concealing the origins of illegally smuggled Egyptian antiquities that have been bought by way of the museum’s new Abu Dhabi department. Daucé recently works as a curator on the Louvre in Paris.

The museum declined to factor a remark to Hyperallergic, announcing it will now not touch upon ongoing investigations.

Charnier and Daucé labored along Martinez on the Agence France-Muséums (AFM), a non-public frame established in 2007 to advise the newly conceptualized Louvre Abu Dhabi on obtaining a suite. The museum itself used to be the fabricated from a 2007 settlement between by way of the United Arab Emirates and France that allowed the rich town of Abu Dhabi to construct a museum with the Louvre’s iconic title and ensured coaching, reinforce, and transient loans from the Paris establishment. The Louvre Abu Dhabi opened its doorways in 2017.

However in keeping with an inner investigation carried out by way of AFM in 2021, quoted by way of Libération, the company “has if truth be told transform an impressive device to be had to traffickers.”

In 2016, ahead of the museum opened, the Louvre Abu Dhabi bought 5 allegedly trafficked Egyptian antiquities for $8.6 million, together with a unprecedented 1327 BCE granite stele depicting a royal decree from Pharaoh Tutankhamun. France opened an investigation in 2018, and Martinez used to be sooner or later charged this Would possibly. Two months previous, French government arrested the dealer of the sale, German-Lebanese gallery proprietor Robin Dib.

The continued investigation alleges ties to archaeology professional Christophe Kunicki, who's related to Dib. In 2020, two years ahead of Dib’s arrest, Kunicki used to be charged with cash laundering and fraud following an investigation into his sale of an historical Egyptian gold coffin to the Metropolitan Museum of Artwork. (The sarcophagus used to be returned, and 5 different gadgets have been seized from the Met this Would possibly after their ties to the smuggling ring got here to mild.)

In 2017, the Metropolitan Museum of Artwork bought a gold coffin from Christophe Kunicki. Two years later, the museum returned it after finding it used to be stolen. (by the use of Wikimedia Commons)

In keeping with Libération, French investigators stated of AFM: “The individuals of this company […] confirmed negligence, incompetence, or amateurism, but in addition an way over self assurance in opposition to Christophe Kunicki and his husband, who loved a very good skilled recognition. It seems that that Jean-François Charnier and Noëmi Daucé, specifically, have actually failed of their duties.”

However past “negligence” the investigation would possibly counsel extra insidious habits: Charnier won six cash transfers between November 2016 and June 2018 to a UAE checking account that have been despatched from a Belgian public sale area.

In keeping with government in that nation, the public sale area used to be run by way of brothers Ali and Hicham Aboutaam. A 2003 ICE investigation discovered that they have been “allegedly trafficking in illegally acquired artwork and antiquities” when they tried to promote an alabaster stele at Sotheby’s (and Hicham pled to blame to forging an import report for a separate object the next yr), and the brothers got here below scrutiny over a decade later for trafficking antiquities looted by way of ISIS. Charnier’s sister additionally allegedly won bills from the Aboutaams, despatched to a Moroccan checking account.

Now, JeanFrançois Charnier works as an guide for the French Company for Alula Construction, a challenge initiated by way of the Saudi Arabian executive to higher the rustic’s place as a vacationer and cultural heritage vacation spot. The company didn't reply to Hyperallergic’s request for remark.

The smuggling ring has been the topic of scrutiny for just about a decade: In 2013, the Long island District Legal professional’s Place of work opened an investigation into Dib, Kunicki, and German broker Serop Simonian, and a 2019 letter from the Long island DA to the Egyptian Minister of Antiquities, reviewed by way of Hyperallergic, printed that world investigations of Dib and Simonian had resulted within the seizure of “masses of items of stolen cultural belongings.”