On Thursday (13 October) French prosecutors recommended sentencing in their closing arguments in the tax fraud and money laundering trial involving members of the Wildenstein art-dealing dynasty. The high-profile case has mined how the Franco-American family handled its assets, including an art collection of more than 2,500 works, following the death of Daniel Wildenstein in 2001 and his son, Alec Wildenstein, in 2008.
The prosecutor requested four years in prison, two behind bars and two suspended, and a fine of €250m for Guy Wildenstein, Daniel Wildenstein’s son and the president of Wildenstein & Company in New York. The defendant has argued throughout the trial that he was uninformed of the financial structure set up by his father and brother. A six-month suspended prison sentence was requested for his nephew Alec Wildenstein Jr, as the prosecutor argued he was “much less involved” than his uncle, and a one-year suspended sentence was requested for Alec Wildenstein Sr’s widow, the Russian sculptor Liouba Stoupakova (who herself is at odds with the Wildenstein family). Three lawyers and a notary have also been charged and face possible prison sentences and fines if found guilty of complicity.
The prosecutor Monica d’Onofrio called the case “the longest and most sophisticated tax fraud” in the history of modern France. She reminded the courts that both Daniel and Alec Wildenstein died after battling illnesses in Paris, “where hospitals are paid for by our taxes”. D’Onofrio added: “This stateless fortune—where was it declared? Nowhere. You think that this is a global tax loophole? It’s shameful.”
Lawyers for the Wildensteins have argued that the assets held by trusts did not legally belong to Daniel Wildenstein, and so did not need to be declared by the family when settling the estate tax. The defence will present its arguments from Monday, 17 October, and the court is expected to rule after several weeks.