Seven years after the revelation of the so-called “Bettencourt affair”, the tentacular scandal of corruption, fraud, tax evasion, conflicts of interest and political funding centred on the entourage of Liliane Bettencourt, heiress of the L’Oréale cosmectics giant, those who exposed the crimes committed against the dementia-suffering billionaire were tried by a Bordeaux appeal court last month for invasion of privacy. They are Bettencourt’s butler, who secretly recorded compromising conversations of those who were swindling his employer, and Mediapart and weekly magazine Le Point which published the contents of the tapes. Mediapart publishing editor Edwy Plenel explains here the history of an absurd legal procedure led by a public prosecutor’s office that has never accepted an initial court ruling that threw out the case on the grounds of the press’s duty to inform and the public’s right to know.
In a landmark ruling on Tuesday, five journalists from Mediapart and French weekly news magazine Le Point, together with the former butler of L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, were cleared of invasion of privacy charges relating to the publication of the contents of secretly-recorded conversations between the billionaire and her close entourage of legal and financial advisors. The publication of the contents of the tapes, which lifted the lid on a web of corruption and manipulation, contributed to “debates of public and societal interest” and “without entering into elements of private life and family conflicts”, concluded the magistrates in Bordeaux following the trial of the six defendants last November. The full text of their ruling is presented in this report by Mediapart legal affairs correspondent Michel Deléan.
The so-called 'butler tapes', first revealed by Mediapart in June, hit world headlines and created the Bettencourt affair, a tale of influence peddling, tax-evasion and collusion among the high-flyers of the French political and business establishment. Now Mediapart exclusively reveals what Pascal Bonnefoy, butler to L'Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, subsequently told police about the behind-the-doors scenes in the home of Europe's wealthiest woman. He testified that she was the subject of physical and verbal abuse, the prey of an inner circle of "mature men" who hide behind "a tired and fragile woman", including one who he said had the habit of urinating in her plant pots.
by Fabrice Arfi and Fabrice Lhomme
Directeur de la publication : Edwy Plenel
Direction éditoriale : Stéphane Alliès et Carine Fouteau
Le journal MEDIAPART est édité par la Société Editrice de Mediapart (SAS).
Durée de la société : quatre-vingt-dix-neuf ans à compter du 24 octobre 2007.
Actionnaires directs et indirects : Société pour l’Indépendance de Mediapart, Fonds pour une Presse Libre, Association pour le droit de savoir
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