Ten people stand trial in France over Bettencourt affair

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The defendants, who face charges relating to exploitation of ageing L'Oréal heiress, include a former minister who is close to Nicolas Sarkozy.

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Ten people accused of taking advantage of cosmetics billionaire Liliane Bettencourt will go on trial this Monday in what is slated to be one of the year’s biggest courtroom dramas, rep[orts RFI.

Those standing trial, who include a politician close to former president Nicolas Sarkozy, are accused of receiving large amounts of money from the elderly heiress of L’Oréal.

The scandal first erupted in 2007, when Liliane Bettencourt’s daughter, Françoise, questioned the amount of money her mother, who is now 92, was giving to artist and photographer François-Marie Banier.

A close friend to France’s richest woman, Banier received over 400 million euros worth of gifts, including paintings by Picasso and Matisse, millions in cash and made him her sole heir.

Forbes magazines estimates Bettencourt is worth some 33 billion euros.

The scandal mushroomed after police tapped into Bettencourt’s phone as they were investigating why Banier had been showered with gifts.

It was then revealed that other people – including Éric Woerth, the treasurer of Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2007 presidential campaign, who now faces five years in prison – were potentially taking advantage of the heiress in a similar vein.

Sarkozy was also embroiled in the scandal, but charges against him were dropped in 2013.

Read more of this report from RFI.

Read Mediapart's background to the Bettencourt affair here.

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