Friday 26 June 2020

Two Parisian Dealers Arrested Over Antiquities Sales

Culture theft not a victimless crime (Khaled Desouki/AFP)
Several people in the Parisian art world have been helping French police in their enquiries about antiquities sales in the past few years (Henry Samuel, 'Art dealer cited in stolen gold Egyptian coffin case quizzed over looted antiquities in Paris', Telegraph 26 June 2020). This enquiry involves potential allegations about the sale in Paris of looted Middle Eastern artefacts potentially worth millions of euros. It is claimed that now Brexit is beginning to marginalise the British antiquities market, Paris has become an international hub for looted artefacts.

The Telegraph names the five as : Parisian art dealer and 'expert in Mediterranean archaeology' Christophe Kunicki; Annie Caubet, a former curator of the Department of Ancient Near Eastern Antiquities at the Louvre; Paris antiquities dealer David Ghezelbash; Antoine G. the director of Paris gallery Pierre Bergé and Associates (this gallery is mentioned already several times on this blog) and a fifth person was also detained - that later turned out to be Kunicki's spouse. The five were being quizzed by officers from the Central Office for the Fight against the Trafficking of Cultural Goods, and 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.

Mr Ghezelbash was freed without charges on Friday as were Caubet, and the Pierre Berge director. Mr Kunicki has already figured on this blog and elsewhere as involved in the sale of 'the Golden Coffin of Nedjemankh' formerly in New York and recently repatriated to Egypt from the USA, and some other items - a limestone naos shrine and scuptured head as well as in the case of the looted Stele in the name of the head of the elders of the doorway to the Hathor Temple of Pa-di-séna reportedly seized last year at TEFAF, in which the name of Pierre Berge also crops up.

There were reports last night that
'A prominent French archaeologist and his husband were charged on Friday as part of an investigation into an antique smuggling ring exploiting unrest in Middle Eastern countries to spirit out works to sell in France, sources said. Christophe Kunicki and his husband Richard Semper were charged in Paris with a range of crimes including fraud, money laundering and forgery, a judicial source and a source close to the inquiry told AFP. The pair were presented to a judge and released under judicial supervision [...] Kunicki and Semper, widely respected figures in the rarified world of Parisian antiquities, are suspected of taking advantage of the instability that followed the Arab Spring in the early 2011 to loot ancient relics."
(AFP News, 'French Archaeologist And Husband Charged Over Mideast Antique Trafficking', June 26, 2020)It will be interesting to see how this case develops, what was the reason the Louvre official was detained for questioning?

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