French family feud over £1bn ends

French family feud over £1bn ends


France's richest woman Liliane Bettencourt and her daughter Francoise Bettencourt Meyers have resolved a protracted legal dispute (AP)

France’s richest woman and her daughter have settled a long-running legal dispute over nearly £1 billion that grew into a national scandal.

“There is no more case as far as we are concerned,” family lawyer Olivier Metzner said.

L’Oreal cosmetics heiress Liliane Bettencourt, 88, and her daughter Francoise Bettencourt Meyers have met after a long estrangement, Mr Metzner said, adding: “We are bringing an end to all procedures given this familial reunion.”

The daughter publicly accused photographer Francois-Marie Banier of abusing her mother’s alleged mental frailty and abusing her trust to con Liliane Bettencourt out of 1 billion euros (£847 million ) in cash, art and other gifts. Mr Banier, a friend of Ms Bettencourt, has insisted he did not take advantage of her.

Mr Metzner said the photographer “has renounced many of the benefits he received. And we are renouncing any procedure regarding him.”

The case dominated headlines for several weeks earlier this year – and even embroiled President Nicolas Sarkozy and his government.

The feud erupted into a political affair over leaks by former Bettencourt employees about the family’s fortune, and led to claims of tax evasion and illegal financing of Mr Sarkozy’s conservative party.

Police questioned the former treasurer of Mr Sarkozy’s UMP party – then-Labour Minister Eric Woerth – in July amid allegations that he received funds from Ms Bettencourt to illegally finance an election campaign.

Mr Woerth denied the allegations. Mr Sarkozy called them a smear campaign.

As the mother-daughter dispute escalated, Ms Bettencourt raised questions about the future of the company when her daughter inherits L’Oreal, the world’s biggest cosmetics company.

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