Martinez is the current ambassador for international cooperation in the field of heritage, and was in charge of the Louvre between 2013 and 2021. A number of antiquities, whose certificates of origin could have been forged, were acquired “for several tens of millions of euros” during his tenure.
The former head of the museum was arrested on Monday along with two eminent Egyptologists by the Central Office for the Fight against Trafficking in Cultural Assets (OCBC), accused of “complicity in organized fraud and money laundering by falsely facilitating the origin of assets from a crime or felony,” according to investigation sources.
Justice is studying the role played by Martinez in the forgery of certificates of origin of five pieces from Egyptian antiquity, including a pink granite stele of Tutankhamun, acquired by the Louvre in Abu Dhabi.
In March, a German-Lebanese gallery owner was placed in preventive detention for being allegedly responsible for sending these five pieces, illegally taken out of Egypt, to the branch of the French museum in the United Arab Emirates.
In addition, the National Jurisdiction in charge of the fight against organized crime of the Paris prosecutor’s office opened a preliminary investigation in July 2018 into an alleged traffic in antiquities from countries in conflict in the Near and Middle East, which would affect hundreds of pieces with a value of several millions.
An expert in Mediterranean archeology and her husband are among the prosecuted in the case, accused in June 2020 and placed under judicial supervision on suspicion of having “laundered” archaeological objects looted in several countries plagued by instability since the early 2010s: Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria.