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Bettencourt case: Eight guilty of exploiting L'Oreal heiress

image copyrightAFP
image captionMrs Bettencourt, pictured here in 2011, is now under the guardianship of her family

A French court has found eight people guilty of exploiting 92-year-old L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, one of the world's richest people.

Among those convicted was photographer Francois-Marie Banier, given three years in prison and ordered to pay €158 million ($170 million) in damages.

But a former ally of ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy was acquitted.

The verdict brings to an end a long-running case that began with a feud between Mrs Bettencourt and daughter.

In 2007, Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers filed charges against Banier, who had become a close companion of her mother.

image copyrightEPA
image captionPhotographer Francois-Marie Banier was given jail time and a vast fine
image copyrightAFP
image captionFrancoise Bettencourt-Meyers was in court to hear the verdict

Mrs Bettencourt had lavished the photographer with gifts worth hundreds of millions of dollars, including artworks by Picasso and Matisse.

She even made him her sole heir - although this was later revoked.

At the time Mrs Bettencourt said she was a free woman, and her daughter would just have to accept it.

Ms Bettencourt-Meyers said her mother, who medical records later revealed suffers from dementia and Alzheimer's disease, was being exploited by Banier.

The court agreed. The president of the hearing in Bourdeaux said Banier had "a real moral and psychological hold" on Mrs Bettencourt.

image copyrightEPA
image captionAmong those sentenced was Patrice de Maistre, Mrs Bettencourt's wealth manager
image copyrightReuters
image captionMrs Bettencourt's father Eugene Schueller founded cosmetics giant L'Oreal

Patrice de Maistre and Pascal Wilhelm, who oversaw her estimated $40.1 bn (£26.1 bn) fortune, were given fines and 18-month jail sentences.

But Eric Woerth, who served as campaign treasurer during Nicolas Sarkozy's successful bid for the presidency in 2007, was cleared of taking donations from her.

Mr Sarkozy was placed under criminal investigation for allegedly receiving illegal funding from Mrs Bettencourt but this was dropped in 2013.

Related Topics

  • France

More on this story

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  • L'Oreal heiress Bettencourt under family guardianship