25 Jun 2020
Five eminent Parisian antiques specialists have been arrested on suspicion of selling looted Middle Eastern artefacts worth tens of millions of euros.
The experts are suspected of masking the origin of the items before selling them to clients, including some of the world’s leading museums, such as the Louvre’s outpost in Abu Dhabi and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The case underlines the scale of the pillaging of ancient sites in the Middle East, notably since the Arab Spring uprisings against the region’s dictatorial regimes almost a decade ago, and the subsequent wars and turmoil. It comes amid claims that Paris is an international centre for trade in illegal artefacts.
A legal source said that four people were arrested on Monday and one on Tuesday as part of an investigation into “the trafficking of antiquities from countries that are politically unstable or at war”.
The source said that they were being questioned by officers from the Central Office for the Fight against the Trafficking of Cultural Goods.
Officers from the Central Office for the Fight Against Major Financial Crime, which specialises in fraud and money-laundering cases, were also involved in the inquiry.
The source declined to name the suspects, but French media outlets said they included the chairman of Pierre Bergé & Associés, a renowned Parisian auction house that was founded by Pierre Bergé, the late fashion tycoon.
A person who answered the telephone at the company said that no one was available to comment. Antoine Godeau, the chairman, did not respond to an email.
French media said the other suspects were a former curator at the Louvre, a Parisian art dealer, an expert in Mediterranean archaeology and a Paris gallery owner.
All belong to the upper reaches of the Parisian cultural establishment and are being held on suspicion of forming an “organised criminal gang” to receive stolen goods, launder money and commit forgery.
By Adam Sage, The Times, 25 June 2020
Read more at The Times
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