Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MIDDLE EAST MATTERS

Gaza conflict: Palestinians mark sombre Eid

Read more

WEB NEWS

Celebrities in the Israel-Gaza crossfire

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Israeli strike takes out Gaza power station

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

French newspaper apologises for Sarkozy story

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Last-ditch talks aim to avert Argentina default

Read more

DEBATE

Europe's Plan for Putin: Will Russian Leader Bend After New Sanctions? (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

Europe's Plan for Putin: Will Russian Leader Bend After New Sanctions?

Read more

FOCUS

Pakistan's Ahmadis living in fear of extremist attacks

Read more

WEB NEWS

Web users show solidarity with Iraqi Christians

Read more

  • Deadly shelling strikes Gaza UN school

    Read more

  • Video: Coping with rocket attacks in Israel’s Sderot

    Read more

  • Rats on the rampage at Louvre museum gardens

    Read more

  • France evacuates nationals, closes embassy in Libya

    Read more

  • Scores trapped as landslide hits Indian village

    Read more

  • Dozens killed in stampede at Guinea rap concert

    Read more

  • US and EU slap Russia with fresh sanctions over Ukraine

    Read more

  • 'Compelling' signs Kosovo leaders trafficked organs, prosecutor says

    Read more

  • Europe launches last resupply ship to space station

    Read more

  • Graphic: Ebola spreads across West Africa

    Read more

  • Video: How tourism is helping Rwanda’s gorillas, ex-poachers

    Read more

  • Islamists seize key Benghazi army base as fire rages on

    Read more

  • In pictures: ن - a sign of support for Iraq’s persecuted Christians

    Read more

  • Calls mount to ban France’s ‘violent’ Jewish Defence League

    Read more

France

Photographer accused of exploiting L'Oreal heiress goes on trial

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-07-01

The trial of a photographer accused of cheating the heiress of the L’Oreal Group, Liliane Bettencourt, out of a billion euros opens Thursday; if convicted, Francois-Marie Banier (left photo) faces up to three years in jail and a 375,000 euro fine.

AFP - A celebrity photographer goes on trial Thursday accused of cheating the ageing heiress of the L'Oreal cosmetics empire Liliane Bettencourt out of a billion euros.
  
The bitter battle over the family's fortune has been complicated by a separate tax evasion scandal that hit Bettencourt this month, implicating Labour Minister Eric Woerth and embarrassing Nicolas Sarkozy's government.
  
The trial was due to start at 9:30 am (0730 GMT) at a court in Nanterre, west of Paris, and run until July 6, but was likely to be immediately postponed after lawyers agreed to seek an adjournment to study evidence in the tax case.
  
Thursday's trial pits the photographer and socialite Francois-Marie Banier, against Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers, the daughter of 87-year-old Liliane, France's richest woman.
  
Banier, dubbed "photographer to the stars" after shooting the likes of US actor Johnny Depp and Princess Caroline of Monaco, became close friends with Bettencourt after meeting her at a dinner party in 1969.
  
The charge sheet accuses Banier, 63, of "fraudulently" exploiting the age and infirmity of Bettencourt, who gave him masterpiece paintings, cash and insurance policies worth a billion euros (about 1.2 billion dollars).
  
Both he and Liliane Bettencourt have rejected the daughter's claims and accused her of trying to cash in on her inheritance prematurely.
  
"I give to my loved ones and that is my choice," Le Monde newspaper quoted Bettencourt as saying recently.
  
Liliane Bettencourt was the sole heir of the global shampoo and beauty products company L'Oreal that her father founded. Her current fortune has been estimated at 17 billion euros (20 billion dollars).
  
Bettencourt-Meyers accuses Banier of swooping in after the death of her mother's husband, working to estrange her from her family and trying to persuade her to adopt him, according to court documents.
  
Banier told Le Monde last year that Bettencourt was sane and treated him generously as a friend. "These were gifts that, for a long time, I refused. These gifts come from a completely sane woman," he said.
  
If convicted, he faces up to three years in prison and a fine of 375,000 euros.
  
In the other scandal to hit the family, media this month published details of telephone conversations secretly recorded by Liliane Bettencourt's butler, which allegedly revealed she was plotting to evade taxes on her fortune.
  
That scandal dragged in the French government: minister Woerth was accused of a conflict of interest because his wife worked for Bettencourt's estate while he was budget minister in charge of policing tax fraud.
  
The taped conversations between Bettencourt and her financial adviser allegedly reveal that she hid 80 million euros in Swiss bank accounts while making big donations to friends in the ruling UMP party.
  
Bettencourt has since pledged to declare all of her foreign assets.
  
Barnier's lawyer Herve Temime said Tuesday he had received copies of the recordings and needed time to study them in case they affected the trial. The plaintiff's lawyer Olivier Metzner said he would not oppose a postponement.
  
Bettencourt's own lawyers said she would not attend Thursday's hearing.

Date created : 2010-07-01

  • FRANCE

    Sarkozy defends labour minister over L'Oreal heiress scandal

    Read more

  • FRANCE

    What the butler heard: L’Oreal heiress' tax scandal taints minister

    Read more

  • FRANCE

    L'Oreal billionaire heiress pledges to declare all assets after tax-dodge scandal

    Read more

COMMENT(S)