Art law

Portuguese collector Joe Berardo—detained for tax fraud—also investigated for other crimes

Businessman behind the Museu Coleção Berardo in Lisbon, one of Portugal's most visited museums, allegedly owes nearly €1bn

José Berardo

The high-profile Portuguese collector Joe Berardo, who is being held by police in Lisbon on suspicion of tax fraud and money laundering, is now under investigation for other crimes such as forgery of documents and breach of public order according to Portuguese press reports.

The public prosecutors' office said 76-year-old Berardo and one of his lawyers were detained earlier this week. No charges have yet been brought; representatives for Berardo did not respond to a request for comment.

Authorities began a criminal investigation two years ago after three Portuguese banks filed a lawsuit against the Madeiran businessman aimed at recovering nearly €1bn (£860m; $1,2bn) in debt. The three banks began legal proceedings in 2017 in a bid to seize 75% of Berardo’s collection, which was pledged as collateral.

The art holdings are owned and managed by a company known as the Berardo Collection Association. In May 2019, Berardo told a parliamentary committee that he had no debts in his name and that any loans he requested were for companies he was associated with.

The Portuguese state is tied up in a deal with Berardo over his 900-strong collection which includes works by Pablo Picasso, Francis Bacon and Nan Goldin. In 2006, the businessman signed an agreement with the Portuguese government to loan art from his collection on a long-term basis to the Centro Cultural de Belém in Lisbon; the section of the building housing the works is known as the Museu Coleção Berardo, one of the most visited museums in Portugal. The museum reopened on 5 April with Covid-19 restrictions in place.