L'Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt sells Seychelles island



A tiny Indian Ocean island which became a bone of contention in the L'Oréal family feud and political scandal has been sold for €49m to a Saudi philanthropist.

Liliane Bettencourt, 89, heir to the L'Oréal cosmetics fortune and France's richest woman, bought the 2km-long island of D'Arros for €15m in 1998. The buyer is Save our Seas Foundation, controlled by a Saudi, Abdulmohsin al-Sheikh.

In the words of the L'Oréal slogan, he presumably thinks it is "worth it". The foundation, run by two Dutch wildlife photographers, says that it will use the island in the Seychelles group to study the conservation of turtles and sharks.

D'Arros island first came to international attention because of its connection with alleged sharks of the financial rather than maritime kind. Two years ago it emerged that the island had never been declared by Ms Bettencourt to the French tax authorities.

Its existence was revealed in tapes of bugged conversations between Ms Bettencourt, her financial adviser and a photographer. Four people have since been placed under formal investigation by a French magistrate for allegedly abusing the mental weakness of the L'Oréal heiress. They include the photographer, François-Marie Banier, who is alleged to have received over €1bn in "gifts" from Ms Bettencourt, including – at one point – the island.

The tapes also revealed apparent illegal cash payments by Ms Bettencourt and her husband (since deceased) to the presidential campaign of Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007. The alleged payments are the subject of a separate judicial investigation which could lead to legal action against the former president.

The so-called Bettencourt scandal began when Liliane's only child, Françoise Bettencourt-Meyers, brought a legal action complaining that her mother's mental weakness was being abused by Mr Banier and others. Ms Bettencourt has since been placed under the legal guardianship of her daughter and two grandsons. The Seychelles government said that the island had been sold to the Save our Seas Foundation for $60m (€49m) plus $10.5m for stamp duty and other taxes.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own