Sarkozy Case Dismissed in Bettencourt Affair

A judge in Bordeaux, France, dismissed the criminal investigation.

This story first appeared in the October 8, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

PARIS — The criminal investigation into France’s former president Nicolas Sarkozy in the Bettencourt affair was dismissed Monday by a Bordeaux, France-based court.

“In deciding to dismiss the case, the court has declared me innocent in the Bettencourt dossier,” wrote Sarkozy on his Facebook page Monday evening. “Two-and-a-half years of investigation. Three judges. Dozens of police. Twenty-two hours of questioning and confrontations. Four searches. Hundreds of articles calling into question my integrity during the presidential campaign. It’s therefore the price to pay so truth is finally established.”

In March, he was placed under formal investigation for allegedly profiting from L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt’s frailty during his 2007 presidential campaign. Late last month, it was ruled Sarkozy would remain under legal investigation in the Bettencourt affair, as reported.

At that time, the medical expertise — involving doctors’ reports that 90-year-old Bettencourt’s dementia was established by late 2006 — were validated, as well.

The Bettencourt saga began in December 2007, when Bettencourt’s daughter Françoise Bettencourt Meyers brought a lawsuit against photographer François-Marie Banier. She alleged he exploited the weakness of her mother, who gave him assets valued at about 1 billion euros, or $1.36 billion at current exchange.

The family affair has subsequently taken innumerable twists and turns, blossoming into an affair of state in July 2010 when an allegation surfaced that Eric Woerth, while serving in 2007 as France’s budget minister and treasurer for Sarkozy’s UMP party, received a campaign donation for Sarkozy from the Bettencourts that was well above the legal limit. It was also reported that Sarkozy had received envelopes of cash from the family.

Bettencourt in October 2011 was placed under legal guardianship of her grandson, Jean-Victor Meyers. That status remains unchanged.

The court decision does not impact the Bettencourt family’s relationship with L’Oréal, in which it holds a 30.5 percent stake, either. Meyers replaced his grandmother on the company’s board in April 2012.