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Five arrested in France over Middle East antiquities trafficking

A former Louvre curator was among those accused of involvement in trafficking antiquities from Syria, Yemen and other areas
The Louvre pyramid, designed by Chinese architect Ieoh Ming Pei, at the Louvre Museum in Paris (AFP)

French art police have arrested five art experts as part of an investigation into the looting of antiquities from a number of Middle East countries.

A source told The Art Newspaper that the investigation involved "the sale of hundreds of pieces for tens of millions of euros" from Syria, Egypt, Yemen and areas formerly controlled by the Islamic State (IS) group.

A former curator from the Louvre Museum in Paris and an employee of the Pierre Berge & Associes auction house are among those being held, said the source.

Until they are charged, French police can only hold the suspects - whose names cannot be disclosed for legal reasons - in custody until Friday morning.

The suspects are part of a network of professionals involving art dealers, experts and international museums.

They were arrested as part of a judicial investigation opened in February, according to French media.

A preliminary investigation had been opened in July 2018, whose results were transmitted to judges on 7 February to investigating judges as part of a broader judicial investigation into the concealment of theft in organised gangs, money laundering, forgery and use of forgery as well as the omission of mention by the seller on the register of movable objects.