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France

Police detain L’Oreal quartet for second day as scandal rumbles on

Video by Florence VILLEMINOT

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-07-16

Police have detained for a second day fund manager Patrice de Maistre, a lawyer, photographer Francois-Marie Banier (pictured, left) and the manager of a private island linked to Liliane Bettencourt, in a scandal that has rocked France.

Four people connected to billionaire L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt were detained for a second day by police Friday, in a scandal that is rocking French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government to its core.

Bettencourt’s financial advisor Patrice de Maistre and celebrity photographer Francois-Marie Banier were formally detained Thursday morning for questioning at the Paris office of the financial crimes unit.

Her former tax lawyer Fabrice Goguel was also held, along with Carlos Vejarano, the manager of the Arros island in the Seychelles which Bettencourt allegedly owns and has used as a tax haven.

Police have opened three investigations involving Bettencourt, who is France's richest woman, following allegations of tax evasion and illegal donations to Sarkozy's 2007 election campaign.

What the butler heard
 
The multi-layered scandal exploded last month when investigative website Mediapart released transcripts of conversations between Bettencourt and de Maistre that were secretly recorded by her butler.
 
Day two: France 24's Fiona Cameron reports on second day of L'Oreal quartet detention from Paris, France
The tapes reportedly revealed that Bettencourt plotted to evade taxes, hiding some 80 million euros in Swiss bank accounts.
 
De Maistre, Banier, Goguel and Vejarano were expected to be held for 48 hours, after which police will have to decide whether to press charges.
 
Police searched the homes and offices of several people linked to Bettencourt on Monday, including the Paris apartment of Banier, who is accused by Bettencourt's daughter Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers of taking advantage of her mother's frailty to benefit from up to one billion euros’ worth of cash and gifts.
 
Bettencourt-Meyers has asked a judge to declare her mother incapable of managing her 17-billion-euro (20-billion-dollar) fortune.
 
"This is an important step because for months we have been saying that Liliane Bettencourt is surrounded by predators," said lawyer Olivier Metzner, representing the daughter. "We consider that she is not acting responsibly because she is being steered," he said, accusing Bettencourt's entourage of "taking her money."
 
Link to controversial pensions reforms
 
The 87-year-old Bettencourt is the sole heir to the L'Oréal cosmetics empire, which comprises global brands like Lancome and Maybelline. She ranks 17th on the Forbes list of the world's richest people.
 
President Sarkozy became entangled in the scandal after Bettencourt's former accountant told police that Bettencourt and her late husband André had illegally contributed 150,000 euros in cash to his 2007 election campaign, channelled through his party treasurer and current Labour Minister Eric Woerth.
 
Woerth resigned as UMP treasurer this week. Both he and Sarkozy say they are part of a smear campaign intended to undermine controversial pensions reforms which are opposed by trade unions and the opposition Socialist Party.
    
Woerth, the architect of the pensions reform bill, has been under constant fire for weeks, after it emerged that his wife worked for a firm managing Bettencourt's wealth. Florence Woerth has since quit her job.

Date created : 2010-07-16

  • FRANCE

    Police arrest four as L’Oreal scandal escalates

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  • FRANCE

    Police conduct new searches as Bettencourt probe intensifies

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  • FRANCE

    Government and media on a collision course over Bettencourt scandal

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