Wildenstein Request Extra Delay to Art Inheritance Tax Trial

(Bloomberg) -- Members of the wealthy Wildenstein art-dealing family will get a decision Monday on their request for a second delay to the start of a trial into allegations of fiscal fraud to allow French tax authorities to finish a parallel case first.

The trial involving Guy Wildenstein and his nephew, Alec Junior Wildenstein, should be suspended indefinitely until the tax case is complete, according to one of Guy’s lawyers, Herve Temime.

A suspension would avoid a potentially “totally incoherent” situation where tax authorities might end up requesting nothing while judges might have ordered criminal convictions, Temime said Thursday, the opening day of the trial in Paris.

“This isn’t a dodging strategy,” he said, adding that the procedure with the tax authorities is “progressing” and final submissions are expected at the end of October. Judge Olivier Geron said the court will rule on the request for a delay on Monday afternoon.

In January, Guy Wildenstein and his nephew had already prompted Paris’ criminal court to postpone the trial over a double-jeopardy claim. France’s constitutional council ruled in June that in “the most serious cases of fraudulent cover up” trials using facts that are also part of a French tax probe are lawful.

The request for a delay should be dismissed as a criminal judge has full jurisdiction and shouldn’t have to wait, according to deputy financial prosecutor Mireille Venet.

The Wildenstein family is in court over allegations Guy and his brother Alec, the father of Alec Junior, underestimated their inheritance tax return when their father died. Court documents accuse the brothers of hiding assets worth hundreds of millions of euros in offshore trusts, and Guy and Alec may face a recovery order worth around $500 million from French tax authorities.

The Wildenstein family entered the art world in the 1870s in Paris when Nathan Wildenstein, Guy’s great-grandfather, helped a client sell some paintings while he was working as a tailor. Nathan opened his own gallery the same decade. His firm, Wildenstein & Co., has been family-run since then.