Creator of Brazil’s Outdoor Museum Inhotim Sentenced to Prison

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Bernardo Paz, the creator of Inhotim Institute, a contemporary art center and botanical garden in the state of Minas Gerais in Brazil, was sentenced to nine years in prison. Credit Lalo de Almeida for The New York Times

RIO DE JANEIRO — Bernardo Paz, the founder of Inhotim Institute, a renowned outdoor contemporary art museum in central Brazil, was convicted of money laundering and sentenced to nine years in prison, prosecutors disclosed this week.

Mr. Paz, an eccentric and celebrated figure in Brazil’s art scene, was accused of using money raised abroad for Inhotim for expenses related to a conglomerate of mining and steel companies he ran. Mr. Paz’s sister, Virgínia de Mello Paz, was also convicted in the scheme and sentenced to five years in prison.

People sentenced of white collar crimes in Brazil usually remain free until the conviction is upheld at least by one appeals court.

The sentences were handed down by Federal Judge Camila Velano in September, but they did not receive public notice until prosecutors in Minas Gerais state announced them in a statement issued Thursday.

According to the statement, between 2007 and 2008, Mr. Paz received more than $98 million overseas in an account set up ostensibly to accept donations for his cultural center. Part of that money, prosecutors allege, was siphoned to Mr. Paz’s other companies.

Chinese investors bought Mr. Paz’s conglomerate, which included 29 companies, in 2010.

Attorneys for Mr. Paz and his sister have said they intend to appeal the conviction. Mr. Paz has long denied allegations of financial impropriety.

Mr. Paz told the Times in 2012 that allegations of money laundering, which have dogged him for years, were a “mountain of nonsense and lies.” At the time, he expressed an ambition to vastly expand access to his 5,000-acre property by building 10 hotels and lofts for people who might want to live amid his artwork.

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