- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 30, 2005

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The board of the J. Paul Getty Trust has formed a special committee to investigate accusations that its world-renowned museum purchased looted art and its chief executive spent lavishly with tax-exempt funds.

The committee will include five members of the board but not the trust’s chief executive, Barry Munitz, who pledged “full support for this effort,” the Getty said in a statement.

The special committee will examine the trust’s policies and procedures and make recommendations to the full board.

The $9 billion trust and its J. Paul Getty Museum are under intense scrutiny: The Greek and Italian governments have said the museum bought ancient artworks that had been smuggled out of those countries. The museum has denied wrongdoing but in 1999 it returned three pieces to Italy, including a fifth-century B.C. drinking cup.

The creation of the committee reflects a commitment to meet “all legal requirements as well as the highest ethical standards while carrying out the trust’s mission,” John Biggs, chairman of the trust’s board and head of the new committee, said in a statement.

Trial resumes next month in Rome for the museum’s former antiquities curator, Marion True, who is accused of helping the museum acquire about 40 archaeological treasures stolen from private collections or dug up illicitly. She has denied the charges.

Earlier this month, Miss True stepped down from her job after museum officials determined she violated policy by failing to report details of her purchase of a vacation home on a Greek island. Miss True reportedly secured a $400,000 loan for the home with help from one of the Getty’s main suppliers of ancient art.

Meanwhile, the California Attorney General’s Office is investigating the financial practices of the nonprofit trust.

The Los Angeles Times has reported that Mr. Munitz traveled extensively first-class, sometimes with his wife, at Getty expense. The trust also reportedly spent $72,000 on a Porsche Cayenne sport utility vehicle for Mr. Munitz as it was laying off staff and cutting other expenditures.

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