In a shocking case of elder abuse, L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, aged 92, was cheated out of millions in art and cash.

Francois-Marie Banier, a celebrity photographer who befriended the richest woman in France, was found guilty of “abuse of weakness” and money laundering.  He was sentenced to 3 years in prison, fined $477,000 and ordered to pay $215 million in damages. This one of the world’s highest profile elder abuse case.

Mr. Banier argued that the elderly heiress of cosmetic company L’Oreal had gifted him the life insurance, money and paintings to him.  The works of art included a Picasso and a Matisse.  At one point, he was appointed her sole heir.

The Justice of the court, Denis Roucou said that Mr. Banier had “a real moral and psychological hold” on Bettencourt.

Mr. Banier’s boyfriend, Martin d’Orgeval was also found guilty of cheating Ms. Bettencourt out of art work worth 5 million euros.  He was ordered to return the property and recieved an 18 month jail sentence.

Ms. Bettencourt was declared unfit to run her affairs in 2011, after medical reports indicated she had been sufferring from Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia for the prior 5 years.  The court case was initiated by Ms. Bettencourt’s daughter Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers, when she filed charges of exploitation against Mr. Banier in 2007.

In 2011 a judge ordered that Ms. Bettencourt’s affairs were to be placed under the guardianship of her daughter and two grandsons.

The current case of exploitation extended to other members of Ms. Bettencourt’s entourage, including her “Wealth Manager” and Lawyer, who were sentenced to 18 months.  Her former nurse, Alain Thurin, will be tried at a later date.

Ms. Bettencourt’s Butler, Pascal Bonnefoy, provided evidence for the case.  He had secretly recorded hours of conversations between the heiress and her entourage in 2009. This evidence was ultimately used to convict Ms. Bettencourt’s other employees of elder abuse.

Concerned about financial abuse of a senior?  See the Government of Canada’s Information Sheet and information on Power of Attorney.

Jayne Embree, M.A.

Jayne holds a Masters in Psychology and is a highly experienced Divorce Coach and Child Specialist.  She is currently working with the Administrative and Human Resources Departments of Butterfield Law.