Europe

Franco-American art dealer Wildenstein in tax fraud trial

International art dealer Guy Wildenstein and his lawyers are surrounded by journalists as they leave court Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The case against Guy Wildenstein (in cream coat, centre) has garnered widespread media attention

The trial has opened in Paris of 70-year-old Guy Wildenstein, patriarch of an international art dealing dynasty, on charges of massive tax fraud.

Several other members of the family are also on trial over the allegations.

Mr Wildenstein is accused of hiding assets worth hundreds of millions of euros, exposed after claims by the first wife of his brother Alec and other members of the family.

If convicted, he could face 10 years in jail.

The trial has been dubbed "Dallas-upon-Seine" by some of the media in Paris, the BBC's Lucy Williamson reports.

The story behind this trial extends back through almost 20 years of public scandal and family intrigue, involving a dynasty with vast assets and deep rifts between its members, our correspondent says.

The family estate includes a host of famous paintings, properties in the Caribbean, racehorses, and a ranch in Kenya made famous in the film Out of Africa.

The level of secrecy around the family fortune was first uncovered in messy divorce proceedings between Guy's brother Alec Wildenstein and his then-wife, Jocelyn -nicknamed the "Bride of Wildenstein" because of her extensive plastic surgery.

Ten years later in 2008, after Alec's death, Guy Wildenstein declared an inheritance of $61 million (£41.5m; €56m).

But repeated claims by other women who had married into the family led investigators to look again at the Wildenstein finances in 2010.

Guy Wildenstein gave a rare interview three months ago in which he denied wrongdoing and said he hoped he would not be made into a "scapegoat".

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