Switzerland helping France in L'Oreal heiress probe: judge

7th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

A Swiss judge said Tuesday that Switzerland is helping France in an investigation surrounding France's richest woman and heiress of the L'Oreal cosmetics empire, Liliane Bettencourt.

Jean-Bernard Schmid, an examining magistrate in the western Swiss city of Geneva, told AFP that he had agreed to take up a request for administrative assistance, confirming a report in Swiss newspaper Le Matin.

He has started "the necessary action, including raids and the seizure of documents," he added, without giving details on the name of the people and institutions involved.

"With my French colleague we are currently sorting out the elements collected," added Schmid.

The magistrate would not give details on the information sought by French authorities or on elements uncovered in Geneva.

He said however that "it's not fiscal," explaining that the case was not about finding out if Bettencourt had hid money in Switzerland.

"Certain people are worried about whether she was abused or not. It goes more in this direction, on the way in which her assets have been managed in Geneva," he said.

The magistrate added that companies and individuals affected can appeal against the administrative aid provided by Switzerland to France.

Bettencourt's estranged daughter Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers alleges people close to her mother have taken advantage of the 87-year-old heiress, whom she says is not mentally fit to manage her 17-billion-euro (22-billion-dollar) fortune.

© 2010 AFP

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