Police to question billionaire L'Oreal heiress

24th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

French police will question L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt next week, the latest development in a long-running legal case brought by her own daughter, her entourage said Saturday.

Bettencourt, 87, France's richest woman, will be questioned at her home following the request made by the prosecutor's office in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, a member of her entourage told AFP Saturday.

Currently on holiday in Spain, Bettencourt will return "at the start of the week and will be questioned by finance police, probably at her home" in the the well-to-do Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine.

Her daughter, Francoise Bettencourt-Myers, has initiated legal action claiming that her mother is no longer mentally competent to run her own affairs and is being manipulated the people around her.

She accuses society photographer Francois-Marie Banier of using undue influence to get her mother to give him paintings, money and insurance policies worth nearly one billion euros (1.29 billion dollars)

The elder Bettencourt -- whose father founded L'Oreal, the world's biggest beauty and cosmetics company -- denies she was manipulated, and accuses her daughter of "vile doggedness" and impatience to get her hands on her fortune.

On Thursday, a French judge rejected a request by her daughter place Bettencourt under legal guardianship, judicial officials said.

Police have now opened three investigations involving Bettencourt, following allegations of tax evasion and of illegal donations to President Nicolas Sarkozy's 2007 election campaign -- charges that all parties have denied.

Police will also interview Labour Minister Eric Woerth, a former treasurer of Sarkozy's political party, who has vehemently denied suggestions that he received illegal cash donations from Bettencourt.

© 2010 AFP

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