A European princess has appeared in court over missing artworks and jewellery worth hundreds of millions in a dispute that involves a European royal family, secretive offshore trusts and Donald Trump.
Princess Camilla Crociani of Bourbon and the Two Sicilies, to give her full title, was told on Friday 13 November she could be fined “millions” for contempt of court.
A previous Royal Court of Jersey ruling meant she had to provide the whereabouts of Gauguin’s ‘Hina Maruru’, a painting insured for $65 million. However, the painting is still missing.
But it is not just Hina Maruru. A further 28 artworks, jewellery and other assets totalling over $200 million is hidden behind a web of offshore trusts spanning the globe, according to BNP Paribas Jersey Trust Corporation (BNP), which has bought legal proceedings against Princess Camilla and her mother Edoarda Crociani.
The Crociani Family Fortune
At the center of the family feud is a fortune estimated to be worth hundreds of millions. Much of it originates from Princess Camilla’s late father, Camillo Crociani, who ran a successful Italian telecommunications company, Ciset (later Vitrociset). Another portion comes from Edoarda’s successful acting career. Under the screen name Edy Vessel she appeared in numerous classics during the 1960s, including The Thief of Baghdad.
But Camillo Crociani was then involved in the Lockheed
Seven years later, his widowed wife set up a trust for their two daughters, Camilla and Cristiana. Established in the Bahamas, it was called simply the ‘Grand Trust’, and looked after company shares as well as artworks and jewellery collected by the family over the previous two decades.
But then, according to a court filing by BNP, Edoarda “favoured Camilla over Cristiana (her only two children) and intended that Camilla should receive most of the family fortune.”
BNP then set about moving assets from the Grand Trust into other trusts in which Cristiana was not a beneficiary, according to documents from the Royal Court of Jersey. The trust was previously moved from the Bahamas to the British Crown Dependency of Jersey, where BNP administered it as a trustee.
“When you are an old person and you have a bank and ten lawyers around the table, you believe your bankers and you do it,” says Patrick Abraham, a close friend of Princess Camilla and Edoarda’s. He says the family have bought legal proceedings against the BNP in Monaco.
But Christiana and her two daughters also took BNP to court, along with her mother, Edoarda. BNP should never have allowed the transfer of funds out of the Grand Trust, the court later found.
In 2017, Edoarda and BNP were instructed to reconstitute the Grand Trust to the tune of around $200 million. BNP complied but argues that Edoarda did not, which is why her other daughter, Princess Camilla, appeared before a court in Jersey last week.
European Royalty And American Presidents
Acting on behalf of BNP, Advocate William Redgrave’s cross-examination of Princess Camilla took place by video-link. Coronavirus restrictions prevented him from visiting Jersey’s courtrooms.
Princess Camilla, on the other hand, flew in by private jet for the proceedings in a fashion typical of her lifestyle.
The title comes from her marriage to Prince Carlo of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, an Italian aristocrat. With their two teenage daughters they live between Monaco, Saint-Tropez and Rome.
Their lifestyle is one of high society and grand galas. Photos shown to the court feature Princess Camilla with President Donald Trump at his home in Florida. She has also been photographed with other heads of state, including the Assads of Syria during a visit to the country in 2004.
Earlier this year, she appeared in the BBC’s Inside Monaco documentary, where, as president of Monaco’s Influencer awards, she attended flashy parties in the Principality.
While in Monaco, Princess Camilla lives with her mother, which is why, in 2017, BNP obtained a disclosure order instructing her to inform the courts of the whereabouts of the missing assets.
By that time, artwork, jewellery and other assets were spread halfway around the world. Indeed, BNP has chased the family through court rooms in Switzerland, Florida and Curaçao in the Caribbean for them.
The Hunt For Missing Artworks
With the help of art insurers, BNP has been able to track down some of the family’s artworks. None were hanging on the walls of the Crociani’s various homes in Rome, Monaco or St Tropez. Nor were any on the yacht or in the Sardinian hotel.
But seven were found in an art storage facility called Museo Vault in Miami. A further 11 were held at another such facility in Geneva, Switzerland.
Princess Camilla maintains that these artworks were not part of the original Grand Trust collection and therefore not relevant to the disclosure order. Many of these artworks “have been purchased either directly or indirectly through a fully owned company by me,” she told the court last year.
Advocate Olaf Blakeley, acting on behalf of Princess Camilla, said that it was his submission “the vast majority of documents that were requested were provided by Princess Camilla and all those highlighted were provided.”
“They have a lot of things that they don’t know where they are,” says Abraham.
But whether or not these artworks were part of the original Grand Trust, there are still at least 11 outstanding, including the Gauguin, and other paintings by Van Gough, Picasso, Renoir, and Matisse. Then there is the outstanding jewellery.
“She had not mentioned that her mother had valuable jewellery in her mother’s affidavit. There was no de minimis limit [minimum threshold] in the court order,” Redgrave told the court in Jersey last week.
While a judgement on whether Princess Camilla breached the disclosure order will be given at a later date, it is not the end of the affair. Any fine, which the court said could be “millions”, will go to the Royal Court of Jersey and not BNP, which is still searching for the missing assets. Neither responded to requests for comments.
Meanwhile the family squabble continues. “It shows that no matter how many offshore structures you set up to conceal your assets, once families fall apart everything falls apart,” says one tax lawyer commenting on the case. “It shows that money doesn’t bring you happiness because these people are utterly miserable as far as I can tell.”
Get The Best Financial Tips
Straight to your inbox
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.
Thank you for subscribing.