Photographer faces trial in €1bn L'Oréal case

A celebrated French society photographer is to stand trial for defrauding the principal shareholder of L'Oréal out of almost a billion euros by taking advantage of her age and confused mental condition.



The daughter of Liliane Bettencourt, 86, the wealthiest woman in France, has brought a legal action for "abuse of weakness" against François-Marie Banier, 53, a writer-turned-photographer who is part of the Parisian fashion and art jet-set. The case will be heard in September.

The court action – a sharp escalation of legal wrangling which began 18 months ago - was announced by Mme Bettencourt's daughter, Françoise Bettencourt-Meyers, in an interview which will appear tomorrow in the French news magazine Le Point. In her first public comment on a family feud which has gripped France for over a year, she said that she was acting "in the interests of her mother" who had been "absolutely encircled" by "Banier and his friends".

Mme Bettencourt Myers promised that, if she won the case, she would hand over "for charitable purposes" the €993m in cash, art-works and life insurance policies which she claims that her mother has given to M. Banier over that last seven years.

Liliane Bettencourt owns one third of the shares of the giant French cosmetics company, L'Oréal. She is the second wealthiest person in France and one of the ten wealthiest women in the world.

She has rebuffed all attempts by her daughter, and the French legal system, to make her undergo independent checks on her mental condition. In an interview with the Journal du Dimanche in December last year, she said that she was still perfectly capable of running her own affairs. She described M. Banier, who befriended her after he was commissioned to take her photograph, as an "artist" and a man "full of ingenuity".

In December 2007, Mme Bettencourt's daughter brought a case against "x", or persons unknown, in the hope of settling the dispute privately. News of the feud leaked a year ago. Mme Bettencourt-Myers has now brought an action specifically against M. Banier, accusing him of "fraudulently abusing the state of ignorance or the state of weakness" of her mother and persuading her to give him "money and property of a value which defies comprehension".

If found guilty, M. Banier would face a maximum sentence of three years in prison and could be ordered to return the gifts.

After gaining some fame as a novelist and playwright, M. Banier has for many years specialised in photography and especially photography of the rich or famous. The subjects of his portraits include Samuel Beckett, Joyce Carol Oates, Isabelle Adjani, Princess Caroline of Monaco, Sophie Marceau and Johnny Depp.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Maths Teacher

£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Science Teacher (mater...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for an ...

Maths Teacher

£22000 - £37000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: A West Yorkshire School i...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week