CAIRO -- Egyptian officials announced they would initiate legal proceedings to retrieve five antiques from Egypt that were seized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. This was part of a broad investigation into Jean-Luc Martinez, former President of the Louvre museum.
According to The Art Newspaper, the five objects were estimated to be worth more that $3 million. They were taken from the museum by the New York District Attorney's Office in accordance with a May 19 court order issued by the Supreme Court of New York.
"Measures have been taken to recover those objects," Zahi Hawass (ex-Egyptian antiquities minister), said to ABC News. He was a leader member of a state committee that was established to repatriate stolen artifacts.
According to the newspaper, the Met purchased the items in 2013 and 2015. The items include a portrait of a woman that was painted between 54 and 69 AD, as well as linen fragments from the Book of Exodus dating back to the "fourth or fifth centuries."
A spokesperson for The Met stated that "Throughout this investigation the Met has been fully cooperating, and will continue so."
These items also include a pink granite statue of the 18th Dynasty ruler and Boy King Tutankhamun that Louvre Abu Dhabi purchased in 2016. It is believed to date back to 1327 B.C. According to the museum.
"Regarding Louvre, We are awaiting the completion of investigations to demand their return," Hawass said. Other officials have also stated that Egyptian authorities have been closely following the case since 2020.
A prominent Egyptologist criticized both museums for not paying attention to the origins of the objects they purchased. According to him, all of these artifacts were secretly excavated and smuggled out from Egypt during the Arab Spring turmoil in 2011.
"The museums made a mistake. They should have contacted Egypt’s antiquities ministry to inquire about the origins. Hawass stated that they were tricked by the dealer.
After it had been sold to The Met in fraud two years prior, the U.S. authorities brought back to Egypt the gilded Sarcophagus of Nedjemankh.
Egypt claimed it had received 5,000 pieces of ancient art from the U.S. in the last year.