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Founder of Brazil’s Inhotim Institute Sentenced to Nine Years in Prison

Bernardo de Mello Paz, the businessman who established the Inhotim Institute—the largest outdoor art museum in Latin America—in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, was sentenced to prison for nine years and three months for money laundering, reports Amanda Nogueira for the Brazilian daily newspaper Folha de São Paulo. The contemporary art collector’s sister, Maria Virgínia de Mello Paz, was also found guilty and was sentenced to five years and three months under house arrest.

While federal judge Camila Franco e Silva Velano determined the sentences in September, the prosecutor’s office only made the ruling public on Thursday, November 16. Paz and his sister had allegedly illegally transferred funds from the overseas account of Horizontes Ltda, which managed at least $95 million in donations made to the Inhotim Institute, to a number of the businesses that made up his conglomerate Itaminas, comprising twenty-nine mine and steel companies, in 2007 and 2008.

Paz then sold the conglomerate, which was allegedly around $400 million in debt, to a Chinese company in 2010. Marcelo Leonardo, the attorney representing the Paz family, who called the court’s ruling “unfair,” has already filed an appeal.

Paz first conceived of Inhotim in the 1980s. It was built on his estate in Brumadinho, near the city of Belo Horizonte, and is home to a massive collection of botanical and art installations.