Bettencourt butler bites back: 'I saw L'Oréal family destroyed'

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'I heard Banier call Madame a bitch'

Police then questioned him about the personality and behaviour of François-Marie Banier, the principal subject of their enquiries.

Bonnefoy said that a progressive deterioration in his relations with Banier had culminated in a clash between the two men during a stay in Formentor1. "He asked me if I had something against him. I was frank, I reproached him for his attitude towards Madame Bettencourt when he called her 'a bitch' on the telephone. He answered me 'Don't you say bitch to your wife?' and I told him 'But Madame is not your wife' and I asked him if he knew all the harm he was causing to Madame to insult her in front of her personnel. I indeed heard, while working on the upper floors, close to Madame, telephone conversations in which I very distinctly heard Monsieur Banier use that term with which to insult Madame Bettencourt."

"I remember a scene at the table where he violently pinched Madame," Bonnefoy added. "Madame Bettencourt pushed him off but he continued and Monsieur Bettencourt, who was then in good health, had to intervene to request him to stop and to stay in his place."

 

M. Banier © Reuters M. Banier © Reuters

 

"After that, Monsieur Banier understood how far he could go, which was very far."

Concerning the relations between Liliane Bettencourt and her daughter, Bonnefoy told police: "Over the years, Monsieur Banier insisted upon Madame Bettencourt in his denigration of her daughter. He kept chipping away. He used vulgar words when talking about her, like 'bitch', and repeatedly told her that Madame Meyers [Liliane's daughter] wanted no good for her and that she wanted to place her under wardship."

Bonnefoy said Banier "was arrogant and his behaviour was clearly contrary to the spirit of the Bettencourt house. As an illustration, he had the regular habit, on arriving at the principle house in Neuilly, after parking his Solex2, of going off to urinate over the plants in the shelter [of the entrance area]."

 

L'île d'Arros © Google Earth L'île d'Arros © Google Earth

 

Bonnefoy said that following the death of André Bettencourt, in November 2007, Banier "took yet more of a place in the life of Madame Bettencourt."

"Already, at the end of [his] life, Monsieur Bettencourt no longer had the strength to fight. So, after his death, Monsieur Banier showed no restraint. I have the conviction that he destroyed a family while abusing Madame's weakness to capture her money and titles. He [forced out] Madame's personnel, she literally drinks his words."

At the end of his statement, Bonnefoy declared: "Madame Meyers deeply loves her mother, just as she deeply loved her father, and she wishes to protect her from her predators and herself. I do indeed sincerely believe that Madame Bettencourt is no longer in a state [in which she is] capable of protecting herself, and that her so-called protectors, instead of protecting her, guide her towards grave procedures3. What I find the hardest thing is to see this family destroyed, whereas they were always in perfect harmony [...…]"

"I want to say that I am sickened and revolted that people of a mature age, these principally being Monsieur Banier and Monsieur de Maistre, knowingly, hide behind a tired and fragile woman and do not have the courage to accept responsibility for their actions."

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1: Liliane Bettencourt's holiday property of Formentor, in Pollença, on the Spanish island of Mallorca (also known as Majorca).

2: A Solex is the common name of a motorised bike now obsolete in France.

 

 

English version: Graham Tearse

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The Bettencourt affair is not simply a family feud that pitches France's richest woman against her daughter. Ever since Mediapart's initial revelations of the scandal, it became an affair that engulfed labour minister, and ex-budget minister, Eric Woerth. It carries serious questions about the role of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and has thus become an affair of state.

Mediapart has now compiled its extensive reports about the affair into one explanatory and detailed book, L'Affaire Bettencourt, un scandale d'Etat, ('The Bettencourt affair, a scandal of state'), currently available only in French, and published on October 7th, 2010 by Don Quichotte.