'Guru' who conned French aristocrats out of £3.6m jailed
Fraudster convinced victims he was a Nato masterspy sent to protect them
John Lichfield has been The Independent's man in Paris since 1997, covering French news. Before that, he was the paper's Foreign Editor and he has also worked in Brussels and Washington. In 1999, he was the UK press Awards Foreign Reporter of the year.
Tuesday 13 November 2012
A French guru and conman convicted of brainwashing and robbing three generations of an aristocratic family has claimed British citizenship in an attempt to avoid jail.
Thierry Tilly, who was based for many years in Oxford, was sentenced to eight years in prison by a French court for kidnapping, psychological subjection, fraud and abuse of the vulnerable. The court in Bordeaux heard last month that Tilly, 48, persuaded 11 members of the De Védrines family –from a nonagenarian grandmother to her teenage grandchildren – that he was a Nato “masterspy” and financial genius who alone could save them from an international conspiracy.
Under his influence, the De Védrines liquidated more than €4.5m of family assets and barricaded themselves inside the family chateau at Monflanquin, near Bordeaux, for six years before taking menial jobs in Oxford. The presiding judge, Marie-Elisabeth Bancal, said that Tilly and his accomplice, Jacques Gonzalez, had organised a “Machiavellian plot”. Gonzalez was given a four-year jail sentence.
Tilly retorted: “You have convicted the French citizen but not the Englishman. We will see what European law says. This is only the beginning.” Tilly has not previously claimed British citizenship. Even if he does have a British passport, he remains subject to French law for crimes committed in France. During the trial last month, Tilly claimed to be descended from the Habsburgs and to be a former “hostage of freemasons”.
He insisted that the De Védrines family had acted willingly and that he had lost money while trying to help what he described as a “gang of resentful, greedy, provincial aristocrats”. Tilly’s lawyer asked for clemency on the grounds that he was “probably slightly deranged”.
Ghislaine Marchand (née De Védrines), 58, the first member of the family to meet Tilly, in 1999, told the court that he was a “liar and conman”. “He kidnapped us by… turning us against one another,” she said. Tilly had claimed, she said, to “belong to a secret service above all the others, which could fix anything, and was in direct contact with the President of the United States”.
Tilly did not physically have to be present to control them, she said. He often gave orders by telephone or email. “We were scared of everyone and everything,” she said “We were so paranoid that we could no longer think straight.” In March 2009, Christine de Védrines, wife of Ghislaine’s brother, Charles-Henri, fled the group in Oxford and, with the help of local people and relatives, returned to France.
She told police that she had been tortured, physically and mentally, to force her to “unlock from her unconscious” the hiding place of a lost treasure.
- 1 Video of Irish 'professional boxer' fighting Istanbul neighbourhood goes viral in Turkey
- 3 A pint of water every day is the key to losing weight, scientists say
- 4 Russia 'accidentally reveals' number of its soldiers killed in eastern Ukraine
Video of Irish 'professional boxer' fighting Istanbul neighbourhood goes viral in Turkey
Nazi gold train: 'Significant' discovery made in Poland
Russia 'accidentally reveals' number of its soldiers killed in eastern Ukraine
Carol Vorderman reveals she is 'covered in burns' after she fell off her treadmill while running naked
TTIP controversy: The European Commission and Big Tobacco accused of cover-up after heavily redacted documents released
Dresden riots: Protesters in Germany attack refugee buses shouting 'foreigners out'
France train shooting: US soldiers speak of the moment they stopped gunman and 'beat him until he was unconscious'
Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn accused of 'deluding' young supporters with 'claptrap'
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith calls for urgent ESA overhaul as part of drive to cut down welfare costs
£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...
£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...
£23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...