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French Wildenstein art dynasty tax fraud trial suspended

media Guy Wildenstein in 2006 AFP

The trial of the head of a wealthy art-dealing dynasty was suspended by a Paris court on Wednesday on a technicality that will take the case to France's highest appeals court. Guy Wildenstein faces up to 10 years in prison for tax fraud and money-laundering and other relations and collaborators are in the dock for allegedly helping him.

Wildenstein, a 70-year-old Franco-American, is the heir of three generations of art dealers and racehorse breeders.

French tax authorities have demanded a tax adjustment of more than 550 million euros from the inheritors of the family fortune, claiming that the money was concealed in tax havens after the deaths of his father Daniel in 2001 and his brother Alec in 2008.

The trial opened on Monday but Wildenstein's lawyer, Hervé Termime, argued that the adjustment demand meant it could not go ahead because it amounted to two trials for the same alleged offence.

The court ruled on Wednesday that the Cour de Cassation appeals court should decide whether the question should go to the constitutional court.

The next hearing was wet for 4 May.

Wildesnstein's nephew Alec Junior and his former sister-in-law Liouba are among the co-accused.

The missing money came to light when the second wives and widows of Daniel and Alec fell out with the rest of the family over their share of the inheritance and accused Guy of hiding it through trusts in tax havens.

Investigators started looking into the case in 2010 and demanded the tax adjustment in 2014.

Wildenstein argues that there was no legal obligation to report trust-held assets after his father's death.

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