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Wildenstein art-dealing tax fraud trial in France suspended on technicality
Franco-American art-dealer Guy Wildenstein (L) and his lawyer Herve Temime (R) leave the Paris courthouse on January 4, 2016, after the first day in the trial of several members of the Wildenstein art-dealing dynasty on charges of tax fraud and money-laundering. Several members of the Wildenstein art-dealing dynasty went on trial in Paris on January 4 charged with stashing hundreds of millions of euros in inheritance money out of reach of the French taxman. Family patriarch Guy Wildenstein, 70, faces up to 10 years in prison for tax fraud and money laundering in a multi-generational inheritance squabble worthy of a soap opera. AFP PHOTO / ALAIN JOCARD.

PARIS (AFP).- A French court on Wednesday suspended a trial involving the Wildenstein art-dealing dynasty, accused of hiding hundreds of millions of euros in inheritance money from the taxman, on a legal technicality.

Dynasty patriarch Guy Wildenstein, 70, faces up to 10 years in prison for tax fraud and money laundering in a multi-generational inheritance squabble worthy of a soap opera, which has been dubbed "Dallas-Upon-Seine". 

The trial opened in Paris on Monday, with Wildenstein's lawyers arguing there was a legal precedent which demanded the case be suspended.

Franco-American Guy Wildenstein is the heir of three generations of wealthy art dealers and thoroughbred racehorse breeders.

French tax authorities have demanded a tax adjustment, saying he owes them more than 550 million euros ($600 million) in family money hidden after the death of his father Daniel in 2001 and brother Alec in 2008.

Lawyers for Guy and his late brother have argued that carrying out the tax adjustment along with a criminal trial was unconstitutional and amounted to being tried for the same case twice.

The president of the court ruled the case should now go before the Cour de Cassation, France's highest court of appeals, which will decide whether to refer the question to the constitutional court.

The next hearing has been set for May 4.

Ten months ago, the constitutional court quashed another case against the managers of the Airbus group EADS over insider trading on the grounds that financial market regulators had already examined the case, citing a breach of double jeopardy rules.

Wildenstein's late brother Alec became famous during a messy divorce from Swiss socialite Jocelyne Perisse, nicknamed "Bride of Wildenstein" for her extreme facial cosmetic surgeries, reportedly to make her look more catlike. 

The second wives and widows of Daniel and Alec rose up against the family over their slice of the inheritance, accusing Guy of hiding much of his inherited fortune via a web of opaque trusts in tax havens. 

That attracted the interest of French investigators, who began probing the case in 2010 and in 2014 demanded the tax adjustment of 550 million euros.

Guy Wildenstein insists there was no legal obligation to report trust-held assets on his father's death.

© 1994-2016 Agence France-Presse

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