Lawyers trade insults during L'Oreal heiress fraud case
LAWYERS traded insults yesterday at the start of the trial of a photographer accused of defrauding the L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt out of €1bn.
The case has triggered a political scandal, prompting calls for the resignation of a government minister.
It has pitted the 87-year-old Mrs Bettencourt, who is worth about €17bn and is France's richest woman, against her estranged only daughter. Francoise Meyers-Bettencourt has accused Francois-Marie Banier (63) of preying on her mother's allegedly waning mental state to pressure her into handing over hundreds of millions of pounds in art, life assurance and an island in the Seychelles.
If found guilty, Mr Banier faces three years in prison and a fine of around €350,000. Both he and Ms Bettencourt have rejected the daughter's claims. Neither of the Bettencourts was present at the Nanterre court west of Paris. Olivier Metzner, for Ms Meyers-Bettencourt, accused the mother's lawyer of "speaking only to the press". George Kiejman, Ms Bettencourt's lawyer, stood up shouting: "Don't push me! My left hook is well known." Tensions centred on last-minute revelations that Ms Bettencourt's butler had secretly taped 21 hours of conversations between his employer and her entourage. The hearing was adjourned. (© Daily Telegraph, London)