PARIS — Former L’Oréal chairman Lindsay Owen-Jones is fighting back against accusations of active and passive corruption, aggravated laundering, misappropriation of corporate funds and breach of trust lodged in a complaint in the prosecutor’s office here earlier this month by Janez Mercun, a L’Oréal shareholder, and his Swiss distribution company, Temtrade.
This story first appeared in the April 18, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The plaintiffs accuse Owen-Jones of setting up a parallel distribution channel in Russia in 1996. Owen-Jones’ lawyer Jean Veil said the former L’Oréal chairman on Friday filed two separate complaints: one against Mercun for false accusation, and the second against French daily 20 Minutes and Frédérik-Karel Canoy, the lawyer representing Mercun and Temtrade, for defamation. Veil claims Canoy accused Owen-Jones of having links with the Russian mafia.
The complaints are being studied by the prosecutor’s office.
As reported, a L’Oréal spokeswoman said the 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 said it had ended those contracts with Banier, who was annually receiving 710,000 euros, or $1 million at current exchange.