Portugal’s prime art collector Joe Berardo inactive over fraud allegations


A prominent Portuguese businessman and art collector have been detained by police investigating fraud and concealment allegations.

Joe Berardo was arrested on Tuesday as police raided several homes and banks.

Mr. Berardo, 76, is that the founding father of a contemporary art museum – a serious tourist attraction within the capital, Lisbon.

He is accused of shifting valuable artworks into a trust to guard them against creditors. Mr. Berardo has not commented.

He is expected in court within the next two days.

The tycoon founded the Museu Coleção Berardo, showcasing major works by Miró and Mondrian, in 2006.

Authorities began a criminal investigation two years ago after three Portuguese banks filed a lawsuit against him aimed toward recovering nearly €1bn (£860,000; $1,2bn) in debt.

Mr. Berardo had told a parliamentary committee in May 2019 that he had no debts in his name which the loans he had requested were for companies he was linked to.

The museum’s art collections were subsequently seized as collateral.

On Tuesday, police conducted quite 50 searches for evidence at private homes and banks across the country.

In a statement, prosecutors said the business group under investigation had been lent quite €439m from depository financial institution Caixa Geral de Depositos (CGD) but allegedly breached contracts with it. Two other banks lost similar amounts.

The statement also criticized CGD, saying its procedures for granting the loan and therefore the subsequent recovery process didn’t meet “good practices and should constitute the practice of crime”.

CGD has not commented on the prosecutors’ statement either.

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