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Top French court orders re-trial for Wildenstein art dynasty
In this file photo taken on March 2, 2018 French-US art dynasty scion Guy Wildenstein arrives at The Palais de Justice in Paris. The Court of Cassation on January 6, 2021 annulled the acquittal of the heirs of the Wildenstein art dealers family, prosecuted for tax fraud of several hundred million euros, and ordered a new trial. GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP.

PARIS (AFP).- France's top court ordered a new trial on Wednesday for members of the art-dealing Wildenstein family who were cleared of tax evasion in 2018.

Guy Wildenstein, the Franco-American patriarch of the dynasty, was found not guilty at the highly publicised 2018 trial where he was accused of hiding hundreds of millions of euros from French authorities.

His nephew Alec Junior and his ex-step-sister Liouba Stoupakova were also cleared, as well as trust fund managers and lawyers who were put on trial.

On Wednesday, prosecutors successfully appealed to the court of cassation for a re-trial, which will result in the third attempt to convict the dynasty over the management of its billions, which are held in a web of trusts and holding companies from the Channel Islands to the Bahamas.

A first trial collapsed in January 2017 and prosecutors suffered their second setback in June 2018.

Prosecutors had called for a four-year prison sentence and a fine of 250 million euros ($310 million) for Guy Wildenstein during the second trial, which stemmed from a multi-generational inheritance squabble worthy of a soap opera.

The case revolved around tax declarations filed in 2002 and 2008.

Family assets include a host of works by Rococo painter Fragonard and post-Impressionist Bonnard, and a stable of thoroughbred horses.

Other assets included a vast real estate portfolio, with the jewel in the crown a luxurious Kenyan ranch which provided the backdrop for the film "Out of Africa".

© Agence France-Presse

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