“Say nothing” to “maintain the empire”: four years in prison, including one year closed, as well as a 250 million euro fine were requested Tuesday in Paris against Guy Wildenstein, during the third trial for tax fraud from the family of art dealers. Guy Wildenstein, his nephew Alec Junior and his ex-sister-in-law Liouba Stoupakova, as well as their former counsel and two financial companies have been retried since September 18, after being acquitted at first instance in 2016 and on appeal in 2017.
They are suspected of having, at the time of the death of the patriarch Daniel in 2001 then of his son Alec senior in 2008, concealed most of their assets: sumptuous ranch in Kenya, thousands of works including paintings by Bonnard, Fragonard or Caravaggio, racehorses, buildings, art galleries...
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An “extraordinary file”, for the general advocate Yves Micolet, due to the “figures presented by the tax services” (half a billion euros in adjustment, which is the subject of separate civil litigation) and of “the sophistication of the arrangement used by the Wildensteins to evade tax, for almost three generations”. And a case in which, according to the magistrate, the Court of Cassation came, after two acquittals, to “remind us that these practices did not escape the French norm”.
On January 6, 2021, the Court ordered a third trial, reshuffling the cards in this case. The first two courts concluded that they could not convict the defendants, in particular because the law governing the tax regime for “trusts” in France was only passed in 2011, that is to say after the events. reproached. “In a scathing manner”, the Court of Cassation “definitively ruled” on the fact that there did indeed exist, even before 2011, a declarative “obligation” concerning “trusts”, affirmed Yves Micolet. The whole question is whether, via these structures, the Wildensteins had really given up their property: if this was the case, they did not have to declare it. On the contrary, if they could dispose of it, they would have had to pay inheritance tax on the entire estate.
For the prosecution, there is no doubt: the “trusts” were “misused”, they were only “screens”, “screens”. The Wildensteins drew from it like “piggy banks”, she assured. “They took a calculated risk. The heirs have completed a carefully studied inheritance declaration, in consultation with lawyers, notaries and advisors,” said general counsel Monica d'Onofrio, who had already requested the National Financial Prosecutor's Office (PNF) during the first trial. “The family motto was to say nothing, to reveal nothing, to maintain the empire,” she added, speaking of a “clandestinity” which “reached its climax with the death of Daniel Wildenstein” .
At the end of six hours of requisitions, based on chronologies and learned financial schemes between Bermuda, the Bahamas, Switzerland and the United States, the attorneys general requested against Guy Wildenstein, 77 years old, a one-year prison sentence, reduced compared to that requested at the previous trial, due to his age. During the hearings, the Franco-American with white hair and thin glasses, always in a suit, repeated that he had not created the “trusts” and that he had never been alerted by his advisors.
“Guy Wildenstein wishes he didn’t know. He is,” insisted Monica d’Onofrio, calling him “omnipresent” in the file. Against Alec junior, 43, the general prosecutor's office requested six months' suspended imprisonment for tax evasion, and against Liouba Stoupakova, 50, a one-year suspended sentence and a fine of 150,000 euros for complicity in money laundering. .
For two lawyers and a notary, the public prosecutor's office requested between two years of suspended imprisonment and three years of which one year is closed, as well as fines ranging from 40,000 to one million euros. The prosecution finally requested 187,000 euros, the maximum fine, against the companies Northern Trust Fiduciary Services (NTFS) and Royal Bank of Canada Trust Company (RBCTC). The defense must plead until Wednesday evening.