The court of appeals in Turin has sentenced Stephan Schmidheiny (below), the industrialist behind Zürich’s Daros Collection, to 18 years in prison for the death of 3,000 people exposed to asbestos since 1976. Schmidheiny, whose net worth is estimated at $3bn by Forbes magazine, was the head of the Eternit group, a Swiss construction materials manufacturer, and was a major shareholder of Eternit plants in Italy, which made asbestos-reinforced cement. Schmidheiny denies the charges and has been appealing the verdict since 2012.
Peter Schürmann, Schmidheiny’s lawyer and spokesman, describes this month’s verdict as “absurd”. He says that Schmidheiny, who retired in 2003 to concentrate on philanthropy, was one of “the first industrialists in the world to recognise the risks” associated with asbestos, and that “as early as 1976, [he] launched a programme to develop asbestos-free products”. Schmidheiny’s defence team plans to appeal the latest verdict in Rome’s high court.
Schmidheiny’s collection includes work by Andy Warhol and Gerhard Richter. He opened the Daros Collection in Zürich to the public in 2001, but the museum closed in 2010. Some of the works can now be viewed in the Fondation Beyeler in Basel. Schmidheiny’s estranged wife owns 70% of the autonomous Daros LatinAmerica collection, which opened a new space in Rio de Janeiro in March.
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Swiss collector sentenced'