The trial of the Wildenstein art-dealing family for tax evasion is set to continue despite the presiding judge rejecting the defendants’ request to delay the start of the trial. Reports in France’s leading newspaper Le Figaro say, If granted, the request would have been the second delay in a trial that began last January. Family members are facing charges of tax fraud and aggravated money laundering related to their handling of a family estate that may be valued at as much as $1 billion.
Previously the trial of Guy Wildenstein was Suspended to Probe Its Constitutionality. The family had strong ties with the last government and this is not going to continue as the current government has come out with swords blazing.
The Wildenstein family has requested that the tax case be sorted out with French authorities in civil court first, before the criminal trial proceeds. In rejecting this plea, Judge Olivier Geron said that while the request was a serious one, that move could have delayed the criminal trial by several years. He said that granting the family’s request would have set a precedent in which criminal justice would be reduced to merely a residual role in all cases involving complex tax fraud, according to Le Figaro.
Guy Wildenstein has been accused, along with other members of the family, of attempting to evade estate taxes after their father, Daniel Wildenstein, died in 2001. Authorities say that the heirs tried to shift their inheritance into various tax havens. He faces a potential sentence of 10 years in prison along with fines, according to the Associated Press.
Herve Temime, one of Guy Wildenstein’s lawyers, suggested that the criminal court could end up issuing a sentence, only to find that tax authorities levied no charges. “This isn’t a dodging strategy,” he told Bloomberg, saying that conflicting determinations in the civil and criminal proceedings would be a “totally incoherent” situation. Testimony by the heirs is expected to last until October 20.
The Wildenstein family is no stranger to controversy, following his late brother Alec’s acrimonious divorce to his first wife, who was often referred to as ‘The Bride of Wildenstein’ he tried to cut her out of a fair settlement by under-declaring his family’s wealth. This also happened following the death of their step-mother.
Photo: Guy Wildenstein and sister in law Jocelyn often referred to as The ‘Bride of Wildenstein’ Via Twitter