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2 Men Charged in France over Mideast Antique Trafficking

2 Men Charged in France over Mideast Antique Trafficking

Saturday, 27 June, 2020 - 04:45
The Golden Coffin of Nedjemankh, on display at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Cairo, after its repatriation from the US. File photo: Khaled DESOUKI AFP
Asharq Al-Awsat

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.

The two men were arrested along with three other suspects on Monday and Tuesday during searches of prestigious Parisian art markets and antique dealers.

Antiques worth tens of millions of euros are thought to have been taken from countries including Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen, often through the renowned Pierre Berge auction house based in Paris.

The three other suspects -- Pierre Berge's director, a former curator at the Louvre museum, and an eminent Parisian gallery owner -- were released without facing the investigating judge.

Kunicki and Semper are suspected of taking advantage of the instability in the Arab world after 2011. Such trafficking would likely have involved hundreds of relics valuing tens of millions of euros, according to sources close to the inquiry.

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