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.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Articles
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
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

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering