In the first trial, which ended in January 2017, the court pursued evidence of a “clear attempt” by Wildenstein and his co-defendants to evade tax by under-declaring the value of his father’s estate, who died in 2001, much of which is said to be held in offshore trusts in Guernsey and the Bahamas.
The alleged offending by Wildenstein and his co-defendants; his nephew Alec Wildenstein Junior; Liouba Stoupakova, a notary; two lawyers and two trust managers, took place between 2002 and 2008.
While Wildenstein was not legally obliged at the time to disclose the trusts to French authorities, the law was controversially changed in 2011 to require trustees and beneficiaries to retrospectively declare all assets and income of trusts with any type of connection to France.
The first trial collapsed in January 2017, with all parties being acquitted, as the judge found there were weaknesses in the investigation and several lapses under French law.
Prosecutors appealed for a re-trial though, arguing there was clear evidence of Wildenstein evading tax, demanding he be sentenced to four years in jail and be fined €250m.
The second trial has also ended in failure, with all parties being acquitted again, as France’s Court of Appeal found that the tax declarations in 2002 and 2008 fell outside the statute of limitations.
Another court case?
Wildenstein is still facing a separate civil lawsuit in which French authorities claim he owes about €500m in taxes.
According to a report by Artnet News, France’s public prosecutor’s office said it is pursuing a further appeal against the latest judgement in the Court of Cassation, one of the country’s courts of last resort.