Portuguese millionaire art collector Joe Berardo detained in tax evasion probe

LISBON (Reuters) – Portuguese art collector Joe Berardo, who was once one of the country’s wealthiest men and featured major works by Miro and Mondrian in his own museum, was arrested by police on Tuesday as part of an investigation for money laundering and fraud.
Berardo has been watched by the authorities for years, suspected of having committed crimes related to almost a billion euros in loans received from Portuguese banks.
Prosecutors and police said Berardo, 76, and one of his lawyers were arrested on Tuesday in connection with an investigation into loans granted by Portugal’s largest bank, state-owned Caixa Geral de Depositos (CGD), to an economic group headed by Berardo.
Berardo and his attorney were not immediately available for comment. In May 2019, Berardo told a parliamentary committee that he had no debt in his name and that the loans he had requested were for companies with which he was associated.
Police said in a statement that the group had received 439 million euros ($522.81 million) in loans from CGD from 2006 to 2009. It allegedly “broke contracts (with CGD) and resorted to renegotiation and restructuring of debt in order to avoid amortization”. noted.
The prosecution said that CGD’s internal procedures for granting the loan as well as its process of restructuring and subsequent credit recovery did not comply with “good banking practice and may constitute criminal practice”. CGD declined to comment.
Prosecutors said more than 50 searches for evidence were underway, including in private homes, banks and law firms in Lisbon, Sesimbra and Funchal, a town in the Madeira archipelago where Berardo is from. .
Police said that in total, Berardo had accumulated almost €1 billion in debt with three Portuguese banks such as CGD, Novo Banco and Millennium BCP, which filed a joint complaint in 2019 to try to recover the debts. debts.
The banks seized the art collection of the Museu Colecao Berardo in Lisbon in 2019 as collateral and entrusted the safeguarding of the works to the state. The museum continues to operate. Berardo continues to own other collections. Berardo is expected to appear before a judge within the next 48 hours.

Norma D. Ross