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Bettencourt Affair Hits Pivotal Point

The 10-year legal battle might be drawing to a close.

PARIS — Could what’s known as the Bettencourt affair be drawing to a close?

A Paris public prosecutor has acknowledged that an agreement was reached between Françoise Bettencourt Meyers and François-Marie Banier to end their 10-year legal battle, a source close to the case confirmed.

At the same time, the prosecutor recommended to the presiding judge that the criminal proceedings against six witnesses, including Bettencourt Meyers, in which Banier alleged that statements incriminating him had been improperly obtained, be dismissed.

It is up to a newly appointed judge in Paris to decide whether or not the legal proceedings in the overall Bettencourt affair should continue in light of these developments or not. If the judge decides they should continue, that reportedly makes the settlement agreement non-operative.

The Bettencourt affair started in December 2007, when Bettencourt Meyers, daughter of Liliane Bettencourt — the 94-year-old L’Oréal heiress and wealthiest woman in France — brought a lawsuit against Banier. She alleged the photographer exploited the weakness of her mother, who gave him assets valued at around 1 billion euros.

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Last summer, an appeals court in Bordeaux, France, handed Banier a four-year suspended sentence and a fine of 375,000 euros. That seriously revised a prior decision with a much heavier fine and more severe prison sentence.

If the settlement agreement is not voided, it would ensure that all legal recourse by Banier or Bettencourt Meyers against each other ceases.

It has not been indicated when the judge will decide whether the legal proceedings should continue.