The Internet was flooded Friday evening with stories about the Bettencourt case, which has been heard over the past month in the criminal court of Bordeaux, France.
“Bettencourt: Prison Requested for Banier, Acquittal Expected for Woerth,” was Le Figaro’s headline. “Maximum Punishment Requested for Banier” wrote Paris Match.
When the case opened in late January, 10 people had been charged with having abused the weakness of Liliane Bettencourt, the 92-year-old L’Oréal heiress and wealthiest woman in France. They all denied wrongdoing.
The saga dates back to December 2007, when Bettencourt’s daughter Françoise Bettencourt Meyers brought a lawsuit against the photographer François-Marie Banier. She alleged he exploited the weakness of her mother, who gave him assets valued at around 1 billion euros, or $1.14 billion at current exchange.
On Friday, the court’s deputy prosecutor requested prison sentences for four of the defendants, a suspended prison sentence for one and acquittals for four. (No punishment was suggested for Bettencourt’s former nurse who remains in critical condition after trying to hang himself on the eve of the hearing.)
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The steepest penalty was requested for Banier — three years imprisonment and a fine of 375,000 euros, or $427,060. Meanwhile, Éric Woerth, France’s former budget minister, was said to have had insufficient evidence against him.
The Bettencourt affair has been full of high drama and intrigue, with surprising twists and turns. At one point it was revealed that Bettencourt’s butler had secretly taped conversations. The case morphed into a state issue and even had a play written in its honor.
Closing arguments will be heard next week, from Monday through Wednesday.