One of the most controversial cases in the art world recently ended in favour of Brazilian art collector Bernardo Paz, as he was acquitted of a money laundering case. The ruling, which was carried out by federal appeals court in Brasilia, effectively overturned the earlier ruling which had convicted Paz in money laundering charges related to his sprawling art facility Instituto Inhotim.
Bernardo Paz was earlier convicted by a lower court in Belo Horizonte in November 2017 for 9 years and 3 months of jail term. He was convicted on charges of money laundering which were pressed by Ministério Público Federal (MPF), the federal prosecution of Brazil. In the same case, Paz’s sister Virgínia de Mello Paz was also sentenced to 5years of jail term (she was also acquitted recently along with her brother).
Bernardo Paz has been one of the most high-profile art collectors in Brazil, consistently being on ArtNews Top Collectors list from 2002 to 2017. He opened Instituto Inhotim, a 700-acre facility that housed both contemporary art and natural flora, to the public in 2006. However, his troubles began when MPF alleged that an investment firm called Flamingo transferred $98.5million to a nonprofit fund created by Paz for Inhotim. According to MPF, the fund simply acted as a front for the money Paz was funnelling to be used in his other businesses like mining.
After the decision, Paz was quite relieved as he said: “I’m glad the truth came out and for being officially exonerated. Now I hope to be able to focus my attention exclusively on my companies and on art, which is what really matters to me.” While the MPF can still appeal the decision in a higher court, it seems unlikely.