Me Claude Dumont-Beghi, an international business lawyer, has just published this document, rich in revelations, with the Editions de l’Archipel. Fascinating from beginning to end, it should have an impact for a long time.
For many years, Me Dumont-Beghi has fiercely defended Sylvia Roth-Wildenstein, widow of Daniel Wildenstein, said to be the most powerful and richest art dealer in the world. She defended Sylvia against the attempts of her sons-in-law, Guy and Alec, to plunder her share of the inheritance. She worked against connivance, against stalling tactics, selective administrative inertia, borders, tax havens as well as silence.
This all happened within the background of a family culture that encouraged inheritance tax evasion.
Guy Wildenstein is a co-founder of the UMP and a major fundraiser in the United States, notably for the 2007 campaign of Nicolas Sarkozy, who he proclaims as his friend. He was an eminent member of the First Donors’ Circle of the presidential party and, in this capacity, close to former Budget Minister Éric Worth. An advisor to the Assembly of French Nationals Abroad, he represents the French abroad in Washington. Guy W. was awarded the Légion d’Honneur on March 5, 2009, by President Sarkozy himself.
Alec Wildenstein died in 2008, Sylvia Roth-Wildenstein in November 2010.
The enormous fortune at issue here brings together thousands of works of art of inestimable value (for example 180 paintingsincluding the most beautiful by the painter Bonnard), a huge ranch in Kenya, racing stables, an island, famous art galleries in several countries, buildings, companies, and trusts, trusts and more trusts.
Evous.fr – What hope do you still have today to see Daniel W.’s succession settled by justice? Let us recall that the first discussions and steps date back to August 2003, almost 9 years ago.
Maître Claude Dumont-Beghi – Everything will depend on the will of Bercy on the one hand, and on the capacity of the investigating judges on the other hand. This will involve the actions of judicial cooperation, notably with Switzerland, to obtain the effective reintegration of the assets of Daniel Wildenstein’s estate.
And thus, allowing the liquidation of the Roth/Wildenstein common estate, and the determination of the value of the usufruct of Mrs. Wildenstein due, from October 23, 2001 to November 13, 2010, to be reintegrated into the estate.
In order to carry out this valuation, it is now recognized by the French Civil Code that income from own property is joint property (even if the trusts established by Daniel Wildenstein common estate are considered as own property).
Therefore, I remain hopeful.
– You write that the publication of this book was an expectation, even a request, from Sylvia R. To what personal motivations did it respond?
Me. CDB. The will of Mrs. Wildenstein was to detail seven years of struggle, to assert her rights, and the difficulties encountered in a State of Law in order to do so.
– What revelations, what new facts or arguments do you bring in this book to the huge case that you defend?
Me. CDB. There are a lot of clarifications – a chronology necessary for the demonstration of truth – information concerning relations with museums.
– Why, in your opinion, this case, at least in its tax sanctions, is perhaps in Europe, the most important known, why is it still surrounded by such discretion?
Me. CDB. You should ask journalists and politicians about questions of discretion!
– It has been proposed, for the heirs of Daniel W.’s estate, adjustments in the order of 600 million euros, excluding penalties. (editor’s note: almost 9 times the adjustments requested from the Bettencourt Estate) What do you think of this estimate? And what about Daniel W.’s fortune of 4 billion euros?
Me. CDB. This means that 1.5 billion euros have already been reintegrated into the estate of Daniel Wildenstein.
His fortune was estimated by professionals, at the time of his death as between 5 and 10 billion euros, after the Wildenstein sons having declared that all their father’s fortune was in trusts (see my book).
– What could you say about other previous or related “Wildenstein cases” that you have heard of?
Me. CDB. (On the subject of Monet’s Self-Portrait: I answer in the book that this painting, for which I had pleaded, was in a trust, and (that) the trustee was Coutts Trust (cf. book).
(For) The stolen works of the Wildenstein Institute: cf. book.
“Torrent de la Creuse”: no comment.
– Do you know of any others?
Me. CDB. I manage various files of refusal of inclusion in the Catalogs Raisonnés of works declared authentic, proposed by the Wildenstein Institute (paintings by Manet, Pissaro…).
– You have successively sent several very detailed letters to the Director General of Public Finance Philippe Parini, as well as to three successive Budget Ministers (Woerth, Baroin, Pécresse). You write that you have received confirmation (p. 171) that, more than 18 months after your letters of 12/06 and 07/09/2009, no intervention or research had been carried out by these services. Have you since received, from any of them, thanks, requests for additional information, or have you heard of any steps undertaken to verify your allegations?
Me. CDB. I have not received any response or information of any kind.
– As a lawyer in charge of a case with so many aspects, have you ever felt worried in any way (pressure, feeling of being bugged, followed, tax audit or other)?
Me. CDB. Pressure: yes. Attempt to destabilize: yes.
Feeling of being overheard: …
Tax inspection: yes.
– We are in an election period. Have you been accused of playing into the hands of the opposition?
Me. CDB. I don’t enter into any political discussion.
– Jérôme Cahuzac, a PS deputy and president of the Finance Commission in the Assembly, has asked to be given certain tax files, including those of Bernard Tapie and Maurice Bidermann. Don’t you think that a comparable request concerning Guy W. would be justified? (editor’s note: the request has just been made).
Me. CDB. I don’t know, I hope so.
– To your knowledge, would Guy W. receive as much support from the left as from the right?
Me. CDB. I don’t think Guy Wildenstein would benefit from support on the left.
– You suggest “to the highest authorities” to give “some additional attention to the concealed part of the W. fortune to obtain the just reparations for these evasions that have been ongoing on for generations. “(p. 203) Could you be more specific?
Me. CDB. It takes real political will to effectively address the problems of fraud of which the Wildensteins are the embodiment. I would like to take this opportunity to point out that, in spite of all that is said in tax matters, the reality is quite different.
– It has been mentioned in the press that the Minister of Culture Mr. Frédéric Mitterrand has promised the assistance of his ministry in the investigations. Did you know about it? Which active concrete steps would be involved?
Me. CDB. I have not been approached by anyone from the Ministry of Culture.
– You write “silence has been ordered” (p. 150). Do you have any tangible proof of this?
Me. CDB. The conviction of Sylvia Wildenstein is improbable, despite the media noise.She was not the subject of any action for defamation, right of reply or anything else.
– In your book, Daniel W. appears to be angelic, the highlight being Hugues Gall’s laudatory speech about him in the appendix. However, we know from his little memoir (“Marchands d’art”) that Daniel W. fully adhered to the family dynastic principles of secrecy, of maintaining the unity of the W. treasure and of Machiavellian games over time. Did this not hinder you in your actions and arguments?
Me. CDB. I don’t agree with Hugues Gall’s laudatory speech. I communicated it for information.
Nothing hindered me in my representation as a lawyer. I defended the interests of Mrs. Wildenstein, with dignity in the search for the demonstration of the truth, in accordance with article 10 of the Civil Code.
-What do you know about the reasons for the tax proceedings against Daniel W. mentioned by Guy and Alec, which resulted in the seizure of furniture and paintings on Avenue Montaigne, and which could lead, they suggested, to criminal proceedings against Daniel and Sylvia?
Me. CDB. The initial tax proceedings against Daniel Wildenstein concerned the years 1996, 1997 and 1998 (classic tax audit).
We highly recommend reading the book “The Wildenstein Affair. History of a Spoliation” to anyone seeking to understand the international art market and the traditions or tricks of some of its main masters. By immersing yourself in this true adventure book, a great thriller which regrettably deals with real facts, your civic will, your culture, as well as your moral sense will undeniably benefit.
Me. Claude Dumont-Beghi makes you discover, under the exotic skies of France, New York, the Virgin Islands, Kenya and the Bahamas, not forgetting Switzerland, of course, a breathless search for truth and justice, struggling with peddling influence, breach of trust, concealment, spoliations, financial arrangements, and many other machinations of fortunes by high-flying collectors…
Will justice finally one day pass serenely on this case which blends cheerfully, as others more often cited, the worlds of consulting and financial professionals, voracious conquests and the arrogance of power … as well as tax evasion, the great Class sport.
The WildensteinAffair. Histoire d’une spoliation, Claude Dumont-Beghi, 238 p., €18.50.
We also advise you to follow the various episodes we have gathered together in “Wildenstein: a press review of a strange affair”… starting at the beginning.
Author: André Balbo
Photo: Raphaël Beghi