A trial this September will determine if the family and their associates owe a gargantuan tax bill. The last time prosecutors went after the Wildensteins, several years ago, they sought €866 million — €616 million in back taxes and a €250 million fine, as well as jail time for Guy. The consequences could do more than topple the family’s art empire. The case has provided an unusual view of how the ultrawealthy use the art market to evade taxes, and sometimes worse. Agents raiding Wildenstein vaults have turned up artworks long reported as missing, which fueled speculation that the family may have owned Nazi-looted or otherwise stolen art, and spurred a number of other lawsuits against the family in recent years. Financial distortions have saved the family hundreds of millions of dollars, prosecutors allege, but their treatment of Sylvia could cost them far more — and perhaps lead to the unraveling of their dynasty.
In order to prove that Alec and Guy misled Sylvia about her husband’s estate, Dumont Beghi first needed to know what assets they did report. But because Sylvia had renounced her inheritance, she didn’t even have a right to that information. “Every deed, every bank statement, every inventory item in the estate and every document related to the succession of Daniel Wildenstein is in the hands of Guy and Alec,” Dumont Beghi says, and they did not intend to turn them over.
Dumont Beghi’s first step, then, was to ask a court to nullify the agreement Sylvia signed giving up her inheritance. Only then could she access details about Daniel’s estate. Fortunately, she had a compelling precedent to show the judge. Sylvia wasn’t the first wife the Wildensteins had tried to cut off by pleading poverty: Jocelyne Wildenstein, Alec’s first wife, was similarly cut out of
… Read the rest