The re-edition of the book of interviews with Daniel Wildenstein obfuscates what happened after, which is not at all edifying. Here is how his despoiled widow finally brought out the truth about the family.
“Active and passive corruption”. “Laundering”. “Influence peddling”. “Breach of trust”. “Forgery and use of forgeries”. “Fraudulent insolvency organization”. “Concealment”. One cannot say hat the charges were dropped in the Wildenstein trials in 2016-2017. However, the case ended on the criminal side with a relaxation. Rather embarrassed at the outset, the president of the court made a declaration that made everyone uncomfortable. “This decision could offend common sense.” Maybe faith in justice too, which was already not very great. But such is the law! If certain practices, in particular with regard to the declaration of foreign trusts to the tax authorities, are becoming reprehensible, it is thanks to what was nicknamed the “Wildenstein Law” in 2011. And then, concerning other charges, there was a statute of limitations. It must be said that the French state has long stymied the progress of the case and Daniel Wildenstein is said to have financially supported Nicolas Sarkozy’s election campaign. The civil case remains pending. Represented by Guy Wildenstein, Daniel’s surviving son, the family is expected to pay a fine of 660 million euros.
"How did it come to this? Greed. In 2001, Daniel died. His two sons Guy and Alec made the widow sign all kinds of papers, some written in Japanese."
They persuaded her to give up everything, claiming that there was a threat of ruin and legal trouble that could lead to prison in the United States. Both lies. Sylvia discovers the extent of her blunder when she realizes that her racehorses no longer belong to her. This silicone blonde is seen by her family as a scatterbrain, unable to understand numbers. They ignore that under the name Sylvia Roth she was a sergeant in the Israeli army. The lioness wakes up. She chooses a little-known but pugnacious lawyer, Claude Dumont-Beghi. The agreement proves to be perfect. A sort of sorority. The two women are going to fight together, Sylvia refusing any amicable agreement with a clan that is gradually getting worried. It will go on until 2010 when Sylvia dies of cancer but not before making her teammate promise to continue the fight. Alec had passed away two years earlier. One last joy, no doubt, for Mrs. Daniel Wildenstein.
The thread and the ball of wool
Little by little, according to the principle of the ball of wool, Claude Dumont-Beghi untangles the illegalities of the clan (1). She discovers the hidden sides of his fortune. Thirty thousand hectares in Kenya. Buildings in New York. An island who knows where. And of course, paintings everywhere. So, there ends up being a search in 2010 at the Wildenstein Institute in Paris. It was there that the police discovered, to their surprise, the Impressionists that had disappeared from the Rouart family’s home during a make-up session. At least, some of them. The others were at the home of François Daulte, who is the creator of the Fondation de l’Hermitage in Lausanne. It allwent on like that. One revelation leaded to another… The file swells. Claude Dumont-Beghi publishes a first book, then a second, which was widely reported in the press. Justice can come to trials, often handed down for a defect in form. Legal quibbles. And this is how the judgment of January 12, 2017 came about.
Where are we now? I don’t have any information on the civil lawsuit. For the rest, the Wildenstein Institute, a fabulous library and research center, had to close in Paris. The Pace-Wildenstein gallery, which marked the entry of the theme of theHoly Family into the contemporary field, has reverted to Pace again. Guy Wildenstein is free. Sylvia nevertheless seems to have achieved her goal. She has broken her opponents. If they are not imprisoned, their name now appears stained. From “famous” it has become “notorious”. We’ll see what happens next, if anything. Other families of art dealers held out after what were, to say the least, delicate affairs. We find them every year at Art/Basel. Or elsewhere. Human have a short memory. A little less, however, since the Internet exists.
(1) Médiapart blames Claude Dumont-Beghi for being less than clear in her Gabonese cases as Ali Bongo’s lawyer.
Books by Claude Dumont-Beghi: “L’affaire Wildenstein, Histoired’une spoliation” in 2012 and “Les milliards cachés de Wildenstein”en 2016. Both books were published by Archipel.
Auteur: Etienne Dumont
Photo: Angeli / Pure People