Sarkozy ally acquitted in L’Oreal case

A court in France has acquitted a former ally of Nicolas Sarkozy on charges of swindling millions of euro from France’s richest woman — L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt — by taking advantage of her weak mental state.

Sarkozy ally acquitted in L’Oreal case

But the court handed a famed photographer a three-year prison sentence and a €350,000 fine.

In 2007, Bettencourt’s daughter accused François-Marie Banier, the photographer, of manipulating elderly widow Bettencourt, now 92, into giving him artwork, cash and other favours worth hundreds of millions of euro.

Sarkozy’s then-campaign treasurer, Eric Woerth, has been acquitted on charges of “abuse of weakness” and taking donations from Bettencourt during the 2007 presidential election campaign. Sarkozy himself was cleared in 2013 of preliminary charges.

The “Bettencourt Affair” ensnared French personalities as it made its way toward trial this year.

Two associates of the L’Oréal heiress were sentenced to prison terms by the court in Bordeaux.

For the second time a court has declared Woerth innocent of the charge of abuse of a victim in a state of weakness in the L’Oréal affair, which has seen accusations that politicians left Bettencourt’s home with suitcases stuffed with money.

Woerth, who was treasurer of Sarkozy’s campaign, was accused of receiving cash from Patrice de Maistre, who ran Bettencourt’s financial affairs.

The court in the eastern French city was tougher on de Maistre and society photographer François-Marie Banier, however.

It found them both guilty of abuse of a victim in a state of weakness, sentencing the former to 18 months in prison and 12 suspended and the latter to 30 months in prison plus six suspended.

The trial was rocked when one of the accused, Alain Thurin, tried to commit suicide the day before it began.

The trial grew from a feud between Bettencourt and her daughter Françoise Bettencourt Meyers. It spiralled into a web of betrayal and dodgy dealings involving close to a dozen people.

In 2011 Bettencourt was declared medically unfit to run her own affairs.

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