Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, daughter of L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, won the right prosecute the man she claims exploited her mother for just under €1 billion.
In a criminal court ruling heard in Paris on Friday, Bettencourt Meyers won the right to a trial against Francois-Marie Banier, a close friend of the her mother, to determine if Banier took advantage of 87-year-old Bettencourt's "mental frailty".
Since 1996 Bettencourt (pictured) has given Banier €950 million in the form of gifts, cheques and life insurance policies. Bettencourt claims, speaking through her lawyers, that she is in command of her facilities and has the right to share her fortune with her friend.
Before the trial, scheduled for mid-April 2010, the court will also review the mental health of Bettencourt in an attempt to establish if she was able to make uninfluenced decisions concerning the gifts.
The case is threatening to tear the French family dynasty apart as mother and daughter remain bitterly opposed. Olivier Metzner, lawyer for Bettencourt Meyer, said in court: "There is a primordial sadness for the family, which has seen itself torn apart by this matter."
As part of his defence, Banier alleged he was not the only person to have received gifts from France's wealthiest woman. He cited the former British chairman of L'Oreal, Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones, was the recipient of €100 million.
Both Bettencourt and Bettencourt Meyers sit on the board of the France-based cosmetic company and Bettencourt holds a 30% stake in the company founded by her father in 1909. According to French media reports the two had not spoken in years until Bettencourt Meyers sent her mother a letter last week attempting to explain her reasons for pursuing the court case.
L'Oreal recorded 2008 revenues of €17 billion and Bettencourt herself is worth an estimated €13 billion.
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