Prominent figures from the Wildenstein art dealing dynasty are expected to go on trial in France for tax evasion and money laundering in the new year. Guy Wildenstein, who inherited the business from patriarch Daniel Wildenstein after his death in 2001, will face the wrath of the French Government. The billionaire family have been central to the art market since 1875, when the company was founded by Nathan Wildenstein in Paris.
The government became aware of irregularities concerning the families financial holdings when they tried to obscure death duties owed to the state. The family owe as much as €550 million ($600 million) in unpaid taxes, fines, and interest, French authorities arrested Guy Wildenstein last October. He will go to trial with several accountants and bankers due to the “the complex and opaque processes by which many international art dealers who use foreign trusts, shell companies, Swiss tax havens, even anonymous loans to museums, to shelter assets.” The I.R.S. in the US will also demand death taxes on $250 million in art removed from the States at the time Daniel Wildenstein was in a coma.
Daniel’s widow, Sylvia fought an eight-year inheritance battle against her stepsons Guy and his brother Alec, who died in 2008. “It is really the first time that a trial like this has taken place in France and it will lay bare the use of trusts in determining whether they are legal or illegal,” Dumont-Beghi told the N Y Times.
The Wildenstein family, although Jewish themselves, have been plagued by allegations of dealing in art stolen from other Jewish families during World War II. There is also talk that the family may have been complicit with the Third Reich with even a proposal to turn the gallery into an Institute for German-French Culture and Art bandied about in the 1940s.
The Wildensteins are a family plagued by allegations and bad publicity. They are among the most dysfunctional art dealing family in the world. See other articles below for references.