Wildensteins Block Start of Art Inheritance Tax Trial in Paris

  • Guy, Alec Junior Wildenstein claim double jeopardy in tax case
  • Family members acccused of underreporting art inheritance

Members of the wealthy Wildenstein art-dealing family halted the start of a trial into allegations of fiscal fraud by convincing judges in Paris that a court of appeal should consider whether they can be tried over facts that are also part of a French tax probe.

Judges from the Paris criminal court Wednesday suspended the case involving Guy Wildenstein and his nephew, Alec Junior Wildenstein, until May 4. In the meantime, the court of appeal will likely ask France’s constitutional council whether the fiscal and court procedures can coexist, according to one of Guy’s lawyers, Herve Temime.

“There’s a very distant chance the criminal court case may not take place at all,” Temime told reporters. But the required conditions are far from being in place, he said.

The Wildenstein family is in court over allegations Guy and his brother Alec, the father of Alec Junior, underestimated their inheritance tax return when their father died. Hiding assets worth hundreds of millions of euros in offshore trusts, Guy and Alec are facing a 550 million-euro ($591 million) recovery order from French tax authorities, according to Les Echos newspaper. Guy Wildenstein has dual French and American citizenship.

The Wildenstein family entered the art world in the 1870s in Paris when Nathan Wildenstein, Guy’s great-grandfather, helped a client sell some paintings while he was working as a tailor. Nathan opened his own gallery the same decade. His firm, Wildenstein & Co., has been family-run since then.

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