Lawyers seek to delay trial over L'Oreal heir

29th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

The trial of a man accused of cheating L'Oreal heir Liliane Bettencourt out of part of her billions looked set to be delayed due to a separate scandal after lawyers Tuesday agreed to seek a postponement.

The trial is scheduled to open at a court in Nanterre, west of Paris, on Thursday but is likely to be immediately put on hold due to a tax evasion scandal that broke last week, embroiling Bettencourt, 87, and a French government minister.

Herve Temime, the lawyer for the photographer and socialite Francois-Marie Banier, said Tuesday he had called for an adjournment so that he could study new evidence that came to light in the tax case.

The billionaire's daughter Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers has accused Banier of befriending her mother, France's richest woman, to get at her fortune.

Bettencourt-Meyers accuses Banier of "fraudulently" exploiting Bettencourt, who gave him masterpiece paintings, cash and insurance policies worth a billion euros (about 1.2 billion dollars), according to the charge sheet.

A separate row hit the family this month when media published details of telephone conversations, secretly recorded by Liliane Bettencourt's butler, which allegedly revealed she was plotting to evade taxes on her huge fortune.

That scandal dragged in the French government: Labour Minister Eric Woerth was accused of a conflict of interest because his wife worked for Bettencourt's estate while he was budget minister in charge of policing tax fraud.

Temime said he had received copies of the recordings and needed time to study them in case they affected the Banier trial.

The lawyer for Bettencourt-Meyers, who is suing Banier, responded that he would not oppose a call to postpone the trial.

"This request seems to me quite logical and legitimate," the lawyer, Olivier Metzner, told reporters. "I will not oppose this request for a postponement because what is important to me is total truth and total transparency."

© 2010 AFP

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