LAST TAKE: The Bettencourt affair is winding down.
The five-week trial heard final closing arguments on Wednesday in the criminal court of Bordeaux, France, where a panel of judges will announce verdicts on May 28.
The case opened in late January with 10 people 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, as reported.
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 at current exchange.
The court’s deputy prosecutor has requested 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.)
The steepest penalty was requested for Banier – including three years imprisonment and a fine of 375,000 euros, or $425,875. Meanwhile, the court suggested Éric Woerth, France’s former budget minister, be cleared due to insufficient evidence.
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.