Photographer faces trial in €1bn L'Oréal case
Wednesday 15 July 2009
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.
- 1 Green village to be bulldozed and mined for lignite in Germany's quest for non-nuclear fuel
- 2 HeForShe campaign: Iceland to follow up Emma Watson speech with UN women's rights conference – for men only
- 3 Car tax disc changes: Two days to go - and they affect you much more than just not displaying a piece of paper
- 4 Teenagers irritable because early school hours mess with their biological clocks
- 5 Now we know whose fault it is if you end up being murdered in Thailand
Isis could become 'world’s first truly terrorist state' and bomb UK with nuclear and chemical weapons, Theresa May warns
Car tax disc changes: Five facts you never knew about your (almost obsolete) tax disc
Five-year-old Iris Grace is raising awareness of autism through her extraordinary paintings
Isis an hour away from Baghdad - with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
The Aral Sea: Nasa pictures show how what was once the fourth largest lake in the world has become almost completely dry
Isis, we are told, is a 'clear and dangerous threat to our way of life'. I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy it
Exclusive: 'Putin's Russia has been my biggest regret,' says Nato's outgoing Secretary General
The Osborne Ultimatum: Chancellor’s benefits freeze bombshell will affect ten million households
There’s no excuse for Dave Lee Travis’s behaviour, but we need to keep a sense of proportion
Should gay sex be illegal? 16% of Britons think so
Mark Reckless becomes second Tory MP to defect to Ukip in a month
- < Previous
- Next >
£50 - £60 per day + plus Travel Scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The Job: O...
£100 - £110 per day + Plus travel scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The Job:...
£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...
£100 - £105 per day + plus Travel Scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The Job:...