After court overturns 2018 acquittal on tax evasion charges, Guy Wildenstein and others face new trial
A retrial of members of the art-dealing Wildenstein family was ordered by France’s highest court, who were cleared of tax evasion charges in 2018. Guy Wildenstein, a personal associate of former President Nicolas Sarkozy, and other family members known as ‘les W’ in France, were convicted in 2017 of hiding an estimated EUR 550 million in offshore accounts from the French tax authorities – a ruling upheld on appeal. Franco-American Man, 74, appeared alongside his nephew Alec Jr. and the widow of his brother Alec, Liouba Soupakova, in what was described as the “trial of the missing millions,”
In the dock were also a notary, two lawyers and two managers of trust funds in Guernsey and the Bahamas. For Guy Wildenstein, prosecutors sought a fine of 250 million euros (226 million pounds) and requested that the family fork over 616 million euros in unpaid taxes. The trial collapsed after the judge found that there was no proof that the defendants were deliberately committing tax fraud and ruled that the investigation had failed.
The acquittal was confirmed by an appeals court in 2018. On Wednesday, France’s highest court, the Cour de cassation, reversed the acquittal and ordered a retrial. The family is renowned as much for its unrivaled array of Old Master paintings as for its disputes, including Alec’s and his wife, Jocelyn Perisset’s bitter 1999 divorce, whose propensity for bizarre facial plastic surgery made headlines. Guy’s great-grandfather Nathan Wildenstein, a cloth merchant from Alsace whose love for collecting art had been passed on to his son Georges, amassed the wealth of the dynasty. Georges fled to the United States when the Nazis invaded France, and his son Daniel added works by Renoir, Caravaggio, El Greco, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Monet to the family treasure, generating one of the world’s largest private art collections. His second wife and widow Sylvie fell out with her stepsons Guy and Alex when Daniel Wildenstein died, accusing them of cheating her out of her inheritance.
She disclosed her suspicions to the tax authorities in France. French tax authorities claim they have found assets that are more than ten times the 40 million euro inheritance declared by the family…. A 30,000-acre private estate and wildlife sanctuary in Kenya were among the family’s properties laid out in court, where parts of the Out of Africa movie were filmed, race horses, stables, a New York apartment, hundreds of paintings and a Gulfstream jet…. The lawyer for Guy Wildenstein, Hervé Témime, said Wednesday’s decision would give him an opportunity to win “another acquittal” for his client….