PARIS — The Paris prosecutor’s office has thrown out a complaint lodged earlier this month by a L’Oréal shareholder and his Swiss distribution company against former L’Oréal chairman Lindsay Owen-Jones.
This story first appeared in the April 21, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Janez Mercun’s firm Temtrade, which from 1974 to 1999 distributed some L’Oréal products in Eastern Europe, accused Owen-Jones of setting up a parallel distribution channel in Russia in 1996. Mercun and Temtrade alleged active and passive corruption, aggravated laundering, misappropriating corporate funds and breach of trust.
The prosecutor’s office argued that the statute of limitations concerning the alleged offenses has expired, a spokesman confirmed.
Contacted on Tuesday, Frédérik-Karel Canoy, the lawyer representing Mercun and Temtrade, said he planned to advise his clients to request that an examining magistrate conduct a more thorough investigation. “The story is far from over,” he said.
Meanwhile, Owen-Jones in turn last Friday hit back with two separate complaints: one against Mercun for false accusation, and the second against Canoy and French daily 20 Minutes, for defamation.
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As reported, a L’Oréal spokeswoman said Mercun and Temtrade’s alleged revelations date from a commercial disagreement in 1998, which was already ruled upon by a court in L’Oréal’s favor throughout five different proceedings. “The definitive decision from the highest jurisdiction [the cour de cassation] was rendered in 2003. These unfounded accusations…attempt to artificially reactivate this case, which was concluded in 2003,” she said.
Canoy takes a different stance, claiming the five former accusations lodged in France’s civil justice system have “absolutely nothing to do” with this new one, which is in the criminal justice system.
Mercun and Temtrade’s recent complaint is a supplement to their legal action taken on Sept. 30 — and still pending — against Owen-Jones and Liliane Bettencourt, L’Oréal’s largest individual shareholder. Mercun and Temtrade allege misuse of corporate funds linked to past contracts L’Oréal granted to photographer François-Marie Banier.
On Sept. 20, L’Oréal announced it had ended those contracts with Banier, who had been receiving annually 710,000 euros, or $1 million at current exchange.