Bettencourt affair

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Under the name Bettencourt affair one is political affair in France known. The focus is on the accusation that several people from the environment of the L'Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt have enriched their assets. The affair got its political significance from the accusation that Bettencourt had also made illegal party donations to politicians of the ruling UMP party , above all to the President Nicolas Sarkozy and the Minister of Labor and Treasurer of the UMP, Éric Woerth . While several people were sentenced to prison or fines, the investigation against Sarkozy was dropped and Woerth was acquitted in the criminal trial.


Family disputes

In 2008, Françoise Bettencourt-Meyers sued her mother's confidante, photographer François-Marie Banier , for stealing gifts worth one billion euros. She also tried to incapacitate her mother. In order to be able to prove her allegations, she hired her mother's domestic worker to secretly record private conversations in 2008 and 2009. She handed the sound recordings over to the police. They were leaked to various media.

In 2009, the daughter failed with her application that her mother be placed under guardianship. This in turn sued her daughter in 2010 for "emotional cruelty" in a court in Nanterre . On December 6, 2010, Françoise Bettencourt-Meyers announced that she was withdrawing all legal proceedings brought by her and that she had reached an agreement with her mother, the content of which was not intended for the public.

On October 17, 2011, the Guardianship Court in Courbevoie in Paris placed Liliane Bettencourt under the guardianship of her eldest grandson, Jean-Victor Meyers. Françoise Bettencourt-Meyers and her two grandchildren will manage her assets.

Financial affair

The sound recordings that Bettencourt-Meyers had handed over to the police gave rise to the suspicion that Liliane Bettencourt had evaded taxes by bringing almost 80 million euros to Switzerland, moving another part of her assets to Singapore and the tax authorities of the Seychelles -Island D'Arros kept silent. The affair was first publicized on June 16, 2010 through a publication in Mediapart . In return for the fact that Bettencourt gave the tax authorities all the necessary information, paid the evaded taxes and the planned penalties, Bettencourt waived an indictment of tax evasion. Such an approach is common in France.

State affair

The sound recordings led to a government crisis in the summer of 2010 because Bettencourt is said to have handed cash to conservative politicians - including Nicolas Sarkozy - for years. For the 2007 election campaign alone, Labor Minister Eric Woerth is said to have received 150,000 euros as a party donation in his role as treasurer of the UMP. Since party donations are only allowed up to 7,500 euros per year in France, these would be illegal payments. President Sarkozy dismissed the allegations as "lies" in a television interview in July 2010.

According to Isabelle Prévost-Desprez, president of the Nanterre Court of Justice chamber, which specializes in financial crimes, two witnesses (one of which is Bettencourt's nurse) said they saw the cash transfers sent to Sarkozy. However, both of them did not put their statements on the record for fear of reprisals. Bettencourt's nurse says she received death threats and withdrew her statements.

On October 17, 2011, the head of domestic intelligence, Bernard Squarcini, was summoned as a “ witness with legal counsel ”, a mixture of witness and defendant , in connection with the surveillance of a journalist from the newspaper Le Monde . He was accused of evaluating the journalist's phone calls together with Police Chief Frederic Pechenard . The aim is said to have been the informants in the Bettencourt affair.

On March 21, 2013, the judiciary in Bordeaux opened a formal investigation against Sarkozy. The examining magistrate accused him of taking advantage of Bettencourt's poor physical and mental health in order to obtain substantial financial resources from her for his 2007 election campaign. On September 24, 2013, the Bordeaux Court of Appeal dismissed Sarkozy's and co-defendants' complaints. In particular, Bettencourt's medical report on dementia remained valid. On October 7, the examining magistrate closed the investigation against Sarkozy.


The first criminal trial in the affair began on January 26, 2015 in Bordeaux . The ten defendants, including Éric Woerth and François-Marie Banier , were accused of stealing several million euros from Bettencourt, who suffered from dementia. On May 28, 2015, the criminal court found eight of the remaining nine defendants guilty, Woerth was acquitted. One case had been severed because of a suicide attempt by the accused, who was acquitted in October 2015. The prison sentences against Banier (now four months in prison on probation and a fine) and the lawyer and asset manager Bettencourts, Pascal Wilhelm (now twelve months in prison on probation), were considerably reduced in an appeal, the sentence against Banier's business partner Martin d'Orgeval ( 18 months in prison on probation) was confirmed. A person convicted in the first instance was acquitted on appeal. Bettencourt's former asset manager Patrice de Maistre (30 months in prison, of which 12 months on probation and a fine), the notary and partner de Maistres, Jean-Michel Normand (one year in prison and a fine), and the entrepreneur Stéphane Courbit ( Fine) withdrew their appeals, whereby the judgment of the first instance became final. One defendant died before the appeal, rendering the trial obsolete.

In addition to the prison terms, some of the defendants were also sentenced to compensation for damages to Bettencourt, Banier originally for an amount of over 150 million euros including interest, which was overturned on appeal.

Further procedures

Mediapart and Le Point were convicted in July 2013 of removing the transcripts of the tape recordings and articles citing them from their homepages because Bettencourt's privacy would be violated. The judgment was upheld by the Court of Cassation in July 2014. Mediapart is suing the order at the European Court of Human Rights .

In January 2016, the domestic worker, Bettencourts, who made the tape recordings, and five journalists were acquitted. They had been charged with violating Bettencourt's privacy.

In July 2016, an investigation was initiated against Françoise Bettencourt-Meyers on suspicion of bribing witnesses.

A preliminary investigation in connection with the affair has been ongoing against Nicolas Sarkozy since 2014. He is accused of having received confidential information from a lawyer at the Court of Cassation together with his lawyer, including about the investigation into the Bettencourt case, and of having promised him support with an application.

Web links


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