Five Egyptian antiques have been seized from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art as part of an international trafficking investigation involving the former head of the Louvre in Paris.
According to the Manhattan district attorney’s office, the artefacts are worth more than $3 million.
A New York state judge ordered their confiscation on May 19, a court document shows. They include a group of painted linen fragments depicting a scene from the Book of Exodus, which date from between AD250 and AD450.
“The pieces were seized pursuant to the warrant,” he said.
The fraud is thought to involve several other art experts, according to French investigative weekly Le Canard Enchaine.
The five pieces seized from the Met were purchased by the museum between 2013 and 2015, according to The Art Newspaper, which first reported the news.
A Met spokesperson referred to a previous statement in which the museum said it was “a victim of an international criminal organisation.”
In 2019, the museum returned the gilded sarcophagus of the priest Nedjemankh to Egypt after New York prosecutors determined it had been stolen during the revolts against president Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
The Met bought the coffin in 2017 and later said the museum had been a victim of false statements and fake documentation.
Several of the individuals charged in the case, including Roben Dib, owner of a gallery in Hamburg and who is currently in custody, were involved in the sarcophagus’s sale to the Met, according to a 2019 report by the Manhattan district attorney.
The Book of Exodus painting is valued at $1.6 million. Also among the five works is a portrait of a woman dated from between the years AD54 to AD68 that is worth $1.2 million.
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