Eight men were found guilty on Thursday of exploiting 92-year-old Liliane Bettencourt, the richest woman in Europe.
The French heiress, whose father founded L’Oreal in 1907, has a net worth of $42.6 billion; she suffers from a mix of Alzheimer’s and dementia. The central question here was whether or not Bettencourt was being manipulated by her inner circle, who allegedly coaxed her into giving them hundreds of millions of euros; the answer, according to the court decision, is a resounding “yes.” According to People:
Among those sentenced to prison for exploiting 92-year-old Liliane Bettencourt were her chief financial advisor, a business associate and her closest “friend,” society photographer François-Marie Banier – who during a 10-year period received over $1 billion in gifts from the L’Oréal heiress.
The five-week trial, which Bettencourt herself did not attend, took place in Bordeaux and ended in February. 9 out of 10 of the defendants stood trial; the tenth, her nurse Alain Thurin, attempted to commit suicide the night before the trial began.
The “Bettencourt Affair” has been a huge story in France for years, beginning when Bettencourt’s estranged daughter Francoise Bettencourt Meyers filed a lawsuit in 2007 alleging that her mother was unfit to manage the estate.
During the trial, Banier defended accepting Bettencourt’s largesse, which included paintings by Picasso and Monet. He claimed she derived pleasure from bestowing gifts on him. “I refused things like a mansion,” he testified. “But she took it so poorly.”
Prosecutors and Bettencourt’s family, however, painted Banier as a manipulator who abused her generosity and failing mental health while conspiring to make himself her sole and unique heir.
For a deeper look, Vanity Fair published a by-the-numbers roundup of the Bettencourt Affair here.
Image via Associated Press.
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