December 9, 2022

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Louvre Advisors Detained in Art Trafficking Investigation

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The saga bordering an global antiquities smuggling ring continues: Two prime Louvre Abu Dhabi collection advisors have been taken into custody by French authorities on Monday, July 24 for their prospective position in the museum’s acquisition of trafficked Egyptian artifacts, as 1st documented by the French newspaper Libération. They are remaining investigated by France’s Central Workplace for the Struggle Towards Trafficking in Cultural Home (OCBC).

Jean-François Charnier and Noëmi Daucé will be held for questioning for up to 96 several hours. This will come following the Louvre’s former president Jean-Luc Martinez was billed in May perhaps with concealing the origins of illegally smuggled Egyptian antiquities that have been obtained by the museum’s new Abu Dhabi department. Daucé at the moment operates as a curator at the Louvre in Paris.

The museum declined to concern a assertion to Hyperallergic, expressing it could not remark on ongoing investigations.

Charnier and Daucé worked together with Martinez at the Agence France-Muséums (AFM), a personal entire body proven in 2007 to recommend the newly conceptualized Louvre Abu Dhabi on obtaining a selection. The museum by itself was the merchandise of a 2007 agreement between by the United Arab Emirates and France that allowed the rich metropolis of Abu Dhabi to build a museum with the Louvre’s legendary title and ensured schooling, aid, and short term financial loans from the Paris institution. The Louvre Abu Dhabi opened its doorways in 2017.

But in accordance to an internal investigation conducted by AFM in 2021, quoted by Libération, the agency “has in simple fact become a formidable instrument obtainable to traffickers.”

In 2016, ahead of the museum opened, the Louvre Abu Dhabi purchased 5 allegedly trafficked Egyptian antiquities for $8.6 million, together with a unusual 1327 BCE granite stele depicting a royal decree from Pharaoh Tutankhamun. France opened an investigation in 2018, and Martinez was inevitably billed this May perhaps. Two months previously, French authorities arrested the broker of the sale, German-Lebanese gallery operator Robin Dib.

The ongoing investigation alleges ties to archaeology pro Christophe Kunicki, who is linked with Dib. In 2020, two yrs in advance of Dib’s arrest, Kunicki was billed with funds laundering and fraud following an investigation into his sale of an historical Egyptian gold coffin to the Metropolitan Museum of Artwork. (The sarcophagus was returned, and 5 other objects were being seized from the Met this May possibly after their ties to the smuggling ring arrived to mild.)

In 2017, the Metropolitan Museum of Art procured a gold coffin from Christophe Kunicki. Two several years later on, the museum returned it immediately after identifying it was stolen. (via Wikimedia Commons)

According to Libération, French investigators reported of AFM: “The users of this agency […] confirmed negligence, incompetence, or amateurism, but also an excessive of self esteem in direction of Christophe Kunicki and his partner, who enjoyed an exceptional skilled standing. It appears that Jean-François Charnier and Noëmi Daucé, in unique, have definitely unsuccessful in their obligations.”

But further than “negligence” the investigation might recommend much more insidious behavior: Charnier been given six funds transfers between November 2016 and June 2018 to a UAE lender account that had been despatched from a Belgian auction residence.

In accordance to authorities in that state, the auction property was run by brothers Ali and Hicham Aboutaam. A 2003 ICE investigation identified that they had been “allegedly trafficking in illegally received artwork and antiquities” immediately after they attempted to provide an alabaster stele at Sotheby’s (and Hicham pled guilty to forging an import document for a different item the adhering to year), and the brothers came beneath scrutiny above a ten years afterwards for trafficking antiquities looted by ISIS. Charnier’s sister also allegedly received payments from the Aboutaams, sent to a Moroccan lender account.

Now, JeanFrançois Charnier functions as an advisor for the French Agency for Alula Growth, a challenge initiated by the Saudi Arabian authorities to superior the country’s situation as a tourist and cultural heritage location. The company did not reply to Hyperallergic’s request for remark.

The smuggling ring has been the issue of scrutiny for approximately a ten years: In 2013, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Place of work opened an investigation into Dib, Kunicki, and German dealer Serop Simonian, and a 2019 letter from the Manhattan DA to the Egyptian Minister of Antiquities, reviewed by Hyperallergic, unveiled that intercontinental investigations of Dib and Simonian had resulted in the seizure of “hundreds of pieces of stolen cultural assets.”

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