Guy Wildenstein the French/American art dealer and foundation trustee has been charged with tax evasion and money laundering in Paris. The charges follow a lengthly investigation by the French finance ministry. Wildenstein, was officially charged on 24 January stating that the family and a Bahamas based bank, had been implicated in tax evasion. The bank is also being investigated for money laundering on a grand scale.
Back in July the French finance ministry filed a complaint against Wildenstein and a formal investigation was opened in October 2011. Charges have also been made against his lawyer, Olivier Riffaut, for “aggravated money laundering,” as part of the ongoing probe. The specific charges in this case relate to tax avoidance on the billions of euros passed to heirs of the Daniel Wildenstein estate. Daniel, the father of Guy Wildenstein died in 2001.
The Wildenstein dynasty was established in France in the late 1800s by Daniel’s grandfather Nathan, who amassed a major collection of 18th century French paintings, drawings and sculptures. Wildenstein & Company art gallery in Paris and Manhattan is a top player in the art world. Wildenstein, 67, is facing separate allegations after being charged last July in France with concealing art that had been “reported missing or stolen”. Wildenstein was formally accused of “receiving fraudulently obtained goods” after 30 paintings and sculptures, worth several hunderd million dollars, were discovered in his Paris Institute in a locked storage room. Some had been missing for decades. Many are believed to have been looted by the Nazis and are listed on the Arts Loss Register. Wildenstein, 65 is a leading financial backer and friend of President Nicolas Sarkozy. He has blamed the situation as “an oversight” by his late father. He has been placed under formal investigation by French magistrates who will decide what the charges will be brought. Wildenstein and Company was founded in 1875 in Paris and is one of the world’s most powerful art dealerships with offices in New York, London and Tokyo as well as the non-profit making Institute Wildenstein in the French capital. The case threatens one of the most powerful art-dealing dynasties in the world. The works were found in a raid by the L’Office Central de lutte contre le trafic des Biens Culture while investigating the estate of Guy’s father, Daniel Wildenstein who died in 2001. The investigation was on behalf of his stepmother, Sylvia Wildenstein who filed lawsuits declaring that was cheated out of much of the estate, which under French law 50% was hers. She died in 2010.
This troubled family has also suffered a number of personal scandals, including the acrimonious divorce of Alec from Jocelyn ‘Cat Woman’ Wildenstein. Alec had been arrested and thrown in jail, charged with threatening his estranged wife, Jocelyne, with a gun in the bedroom in their family’s Manhattan town house. She was granted a divorce in 1999 after she allegedly found Alec in a compromising position with a 19-year-old model. She sighted “sexual abandonment” and won a hefty settlement which she promptly spent on more plastic surgery securing her nickname as ‘The Bride Of Wildenstein’. Could this family possibly bring more disgrace upon itself? We will soon find out as more suits are bound to follow.