Swiss Hotelier Fined Over $4 Million for Dodging Import Tax on Artworks

The case involves an estimated 200 artworks.

Urs Schwarzenbach.

Swiss Hotelier and billionaire businessman Urs Schwarzenbach has been fined 4 million Swiss Francs ($4,023,456) for bringing in over 200 works of art into Switzerland worth an estimated 130 million francs ($130,769,579) and failing to declare them, thus avoiding 10 million Francs in tax.

Swiss Authorities had been investigating Schwarzenbach, who is a resident in the UK since 2012, as they suspected him of tax dodging when bringing art into Switzerland. Their investigation revealed that the billionaire and owner of luxury hotel The Dolder Grand in Zurich had brought at least 123 works into the country illegally, without declaring them at customs.

Among the works Schwarzenbach—reportedly a friend of Prince Charles—moved illegally are a Giovanno Segantini painting titled Le Due Mardri, which he bought at auction at Christie’s Geneva in 2011 for 1.4 million Francs ($1,408,287). After purchasing the painting he transported it to the UK quickly thus avoiding paying tax in Switzerland, according to AFP.

He is also thought to have brought a work by Kazimir Malevich with a value of 16 million Francs ($16,094,717) and MG41 (L’âge d’or) by Yves Klein into the country surreptitiously.

Giovanno Segantini,Le due madr. Photo courtesy Christie's.

Giovanno Segantini, Le due madri. Photo courtesy Christie’s.

Authorities say that when Schwarzenbach did declare the art he brought into Switzerland during their investigation he provided fake receipts that drastically understated the value of the artworks he was transporting. One example of this is the 10,000 Francs ($10,059) receipt he produced for Paysage Alpin by Gottardo Segantini for which he had in fact paid 105,000 Francs ($105,621) in 2012.

Schwarzenbach’s Dolder Grand boasts a world class art collection, some of which is thought to have been brought into the country illegally. Other items ended up hanging on the walls of his Saint Moritz residence, Villa Meridiana.

Schwarzenbach says that he is willing to pay the 10 million Swiss Francs he is said to have dodged in tax but is contesting the 4 million franc fine, denying his apparent evasions were intentional.

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