Inhotim founder Bernardo Paz gets money laundering conviction quashed

Bernardo Paz. Courtesy Inhotim

Bernardo Paz, the Brazilian art collector and founder of Inhotim sculpture park, has had his 2017 conviction for money laundering quashed on appeal. 

Paz, who made his fortune in mining, had been given a nine year and three month sentence after being found to have moved $98.5m (£70.6m) between 2007 and 2008 from an account intended for donations to Inhotim, to another of his registered companies and using some of those funds to meet financial obligations outside the park. His conviction has been overturned however, as the precise laws Paz was prosecuted under did not come onto the books until 2013. 

Inhotim, 60km from Belo Horizonte in the state of Minas Gerais, was founded by Paz in 2004 spread over 2,000-hectares of Atlantic forest. As well as being an important destination for botanists it boasts works by artists including Chris Burden, Olafur Eliasson, Doug Aitken, Vik Muniz, Anish Kapoor, Dan Graham, Adriana Varejão and Hélio Oiticica each housed in their specially-commission pavilions. After his 2017 conviction Paz resigned from the presidency of the Inhotim foundation. 

A 2018 investigation by Bloomberg Businessweek accused Paz of employing underage workers through Replasa, his charcoal production company, or its subcontractors. Replasa deny the claims. 

The Minas Gerais government took ownership of 20 works from its collection in 2017, including installations by Matthew Barney and Yayoi Kusama, to cover Paz’s tax debts. Under the terms however the works remain at the institution and cannot be sold. 

The public prosecutor said it may itself appeal the money laundering ruling. 

18 February 2020