Bettencourt trial: the humiliation, fear and anger of the accused

After predictable procedural wrangles – plus some unforeseen delays – the long-awaited Bettencourt trial got under way in Bordeaux last week. Those on trial, who include a former minister in Nicolas Sarkozy's government, stand accused of either directly preying on the frailty of L'Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt or of profiting from it. Eight of the accused gave evidence during the week, all struggling to hide their dismay at being in the dock. The first was writer and photographer François-Marie Banier, a close confidant of Bettencourt from whom he received some 414 million euros, and who told the court he understands nothing about the world of money and business. “I'm not a spoilt child or a dandy,” he insisted. Mediapart's legal affairs correspondent Michel Deléan was in court to witness the start of this extraordinary trial.

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The long-awaited Bettencourt trial got under way in Bordeaux in south-west France last week, though not before some last-minute delays. Lawyers for some of the ten men accused of profiting from the frailty of L'Oréal heiress and billionaire Liliane Bettencourt sought, unsuccessfully, to postpone the hearing on procedural grounds. Then the prosecution announced that one of the defendants, Bettencourt's former nurse Alain Thurin, 64, would not be appearing as he had tried to hang himself from a tree, news that sent a collective shudder around the packed courtroom. Finally it was revealed that another of the accused, Carlos Vejarano, who managed a Seychelles island owned by Bettencourt, would also not be attending the court on medical grounds, and had produced a certificate for the judges.

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