We reported last week that the billionaire art dealer Guy Wildenstein had been cleared of Tax fraud in a Paris court. Well, it ain’t over till it’s over! The French government are gunning for a conviction and are now appealing against an earlier ruling this week to acquit the scoundrel and seven others of tax fraud charges.
There are numerous contributing factors here. One is the French government’s broader crackdown on tax evasion. The other seems to be a deep-seated need to make an example of the Wildenstein family: The French financial prosecutor’s office said on Friday that it had launched an appeal.
“The case had shown a clear intention to evade paying tax”
In a statement, the financial prosecutor’s office said there were valid grounds for an appeal given that “the case had shown a clear intention to evade paying tax”, even if the final ruling had been to acquit the defendants.
The Wildenstein family estate includes famous paintings, Caribbean properties, racehorses, and a Kenyan ranch. The level of secrecy around the family fortune was first uncovered in the late 1990s during messy divorce proceedings between Guy’s brother Alec and his then-wife, Jocelyn. Ten years later in 2008, after Alec’s death, Guy Wildenstein declared an inheritance of $61m (£50m; €57m). But repeated claims by other women who had married into the family led investigators to look again at the Wildenstein finances in 2010.
Prosecutors had called for a four-year prison sentence and a fine of €250m for Mr. Wildenstein but it will be up to the appeal courts to decide whether or not there is still a case.