It is a trial that is the reality show soap opera in France, and it begins with the testimony of Francois-Marie Banier, a 67 year old artist and godfather to Johnny Depp’s daughter. The accusation dates back to a 2007 complaint filed by Francoise-Bettencourt Meyers that 10 people, with the worst offender being Banier, defrauded her mother, 92 year old L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt of as much as $1 million per day.
If Francoise-Bettencourt Meyers is correct, it would mean that her mother, whose net worth is estimated at $39 billion by Forbes, was exploited and robbed by nearly everyone around her, including her butler, her accountant, her nurse, her friends, art dealers and others. Even former Prime Minster Nikolas Sarkozy was implicated for allegedly having received illegal donations from one of the thieves, but the case was dismissed on lack of evidence.
The trial got off to a rollicking start with the suicide attempt of Alain Thurin, a former nurse, who is in a coma after trying to hang himself in the woods. In a suicide note, he insisted he is innocent, but “being faced with all of these hotshot lawyers would be difficult.”
Banier, who was lavished with gifts such as a Picasso and a Matisse, testified that the heiress “found pleasure in giving the money, ” and Banier was a confidant, only so glad to help relieve her of her fortune. He insists she was of sound mind when she gave the presents, but Francoise-Bettencourt Meyers says her mother was mentally and physically frail and was exploited by Banier. The latter said he had several properties in Paris and in Morocco and was not hard up for money.
Francoise-Bettencourt Meyers married a grandson of a rabbi murdered and Auschwitz. She raised her children as Jews, and this caused controversy, given that both L’Oreal’s founder, Eugene Schueller, Liliane’s father and her husband were Nazi sympathizers.