French judge clears art dealer Wildenstein of tax fraud

A French judge has cleared international art dealer Guy Wildenstein of hiding valuable paintings to dodge paying tax.

Wildenstein, 71, the Franco-American heir of a billion-dollar New York art dealing empire, was accused of concealing much of his inherited fortune from French tax authorities in trusts held in offshore havens.

The judge in Paris' criminal court Thursday cited shortcomings in the investigation as the reason behind the acquittal — a blow to French tax authorities which are clamping down on fraud across the board.

Wildenstein was accused of "fiscal fraud and money-laundering" and had faced up to 10 years in prison. He did not attend Thursday's court proceedings.