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Bettencourt Lawyer’s Appeal Denied

A court in Versailles denied an appeal by lawyer, Georges Kiejman, allowing the court of Nanterre to continue its investigation into the Bettencourt affair.

VERSAILLES, France — A court here on Tuesday denied an appeal filed by Liliane Bettencourt’s lawyer, Georges Kiejman, and in doing so gave the green light to the court of Nanterre, France, to continue its investigation into the Bettencourt affair.

Kiejman’s appeal, which was hotly discussed in the Versailles appellate court on Aug. 17, opposed a demand made on July 1 in Nanterre by Judge Isabelle Prévost-Desprez that supplementary information be gathered before a trial date is set for the case pitting Bettencourt’s daughter, Françoise Bettencourt Meyers, against photographer François-Marie Banier.

The hearing had originally been slated to start July 1 and run through July 6. But a few weeks earlier, French police received more than 20 hours of secretly recorded discussions from May 2009 to May 2010 between Bettencourt, the 87-year-old daughter of L’Oréal’s founder, and her advisers, among others. Bettencourt Meyers, who was given the clandestine recordings made by her mother’s former butler, then turned them over to authorities.

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Bettencourt Meyers had brought the lawsuit against Banier in December 2007. She alleges Banier’s “exploitation of weakness” of Bettencourt, who gave him assets valued at about 1 billion euros, or $1.3 billion at current exchange. For her part, Bettencourt argues she is sound and acting on her own free will.

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During the summer, Prévost-Desprez had pursued her investigation into the Bettencourt affair. Earlier this month, she had Bettencourt’s house searched, for instance.

The saga has taken countless twists and turns. In its Tuesday edition, Le Monde newspaper published a front-page story accusing President Nicolas Sarkozy’s office of illegally attempting to suppress freedom of the press in the wake of the Bettencourt affair. The article said the French government had ordered counterespionage agents to find the source of news leaks, especially after Le Monde published a story in mid-July about ties between Bettencourt and Eric Woerth, France’s labor minister. Le Monde has decided to file a suit.

Sarkozy’s office has denied the paper’s claims.

In its Wednesday edition, Le Monde devoted two pages to the alleged cover-up and reiterated that the paper will file a suit in the coming days.