the return of the “green sarcophagus”, returned by the United States

The distant exile of “green sarcophagus” ends. The Egyptian antiquity, stolen from the banks of the Nile in 2008 then exhibited in the United States after a stopover in Germany, has just returned to Cairo, where its return was the subject of a ceremony on Monday 2 January.

“A valuable fragment of Egyptian history has been recovered through cooperation with the United States and efforts over several years”, greeted the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sameh Choukry, in front of the voluminous wooden tomb. Almost three meters long, it is distinguished by a large emerald-colored face. Its probable owner, Ankhenmaat, was a priest of the Late Pharaonic Period, nearly 2,700 years ago.

Investigation in New York

The return of “green sarcophagus” completes the already rich list of stolen antiquities returned by the United States to Egypt. Last September, the American authorities returned sixteen works, six of which were exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET), in New York, including a stele and a portrait. But it is the repatriation of “golden sarcophagus”in 2019, which makes an impression.

In question: her splendor but also a photo of the American influencer Kim Kardashian dressed in a dress as sparkling as the tomb, next to which she poses, swaying, during a gala at the MET in 2018. Posted on Instagram, l he image reaches one of the looters of the sarcophagus, a Jordanian, who is indignant to see his “theft” thus exposed when he has received no remuneration. He is then moved by another trafficker, without knowing that the latter informs the New York prosecutor…

For several years, the latter’s office has accelerated the pace of the fight against antiquities trafficking, causing the New York Timesin an article from last December, that “The Indiana Jones era is over”. The “Dib-Simonian” network is in the crosshairs of Alvin Bragg, who has held the post of prosecutor since January 2022 (he is the first black American in this function).

A reference to the intermediary Roben Dib and the Simonian family, which has several art dealers, particularly in Germany. It is this network ” well organised ” who looted the green sarcophagus, the New York prosecutor said in a statement, explaining that it had been sold for a million dollars to a private collector, before being exhibited at the Museum of Natural Sciences in Houston.

Branches in France

And to add that his investigation of this network allowed “the indictment or arrest of nine people in France, including the former director of the Louvre Jean-Luc Martinez, and four people in Germany”. Not exempt from pride, the mention of the French official – the only person whose name is mentioned – refers to the placement of the latter in police custody, followed by an indictment, last May, within the framework of an investigation carried out by the French justice system.

The reason, “money laundering and complicity in organized fraud”, notably concerns a pink granite stele representing Tutankhamun. When purchased by the Louvre Abu Dhabi in 2016, Jean-Luc Martinez would have “lack of vigilance” on its origin, probably looting.

A resounding case in which the Advocate General requested, in November, the lifting of the indictment of the former director of the Louvre. The deliberation is expected for February 3.


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