New twist in L'Oreal case sees heiress vow to declare assets

Liliane Bettencourt, L'Oreal heiress and France's richest woman, said on Monday that she will declare her overseas assets after she was caught on tape discussing apparently undisclosed holdings with an advisor.

"I have decided to declare all of my family assets that are currently abroad in cooperation with the French tax authorities," said 87-year-old Bettencourt (pictured) in a statement.

The recordings, made by Bettencourt's ex-butler between 2009 and 2010, allegedly reveal the L'Oreal heiress in talks with an advisor over holdings in Switzerland and the Seychelles. Transcripts of the tapes, which were made public last week, appear in several French newspapers and websites.

"The illicit and odious recordings that expose my private life and could affect all of my staff and boards, will not prevent me from continuing to manage my personal affairs," said Bettencourt.

These new revelations could also impact the trial over Bettencourt's wealth brought by her only daughter, Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers, due to begin next week. (Continue reading here) According to the Wall Street Journal, the trial could be delayed in order to use the recordings as evidence in the case.

Bettencourt-Meyers won the right to prosecute Francois-Marie Banier in December, the man she claims exploited her mother for just under €1 billion and took advantage of Bettencourt's "mental fragility". (Continue reading here) Since 1996 Bettencourt has given Banier €950 million in the form of gifts, cheques and life insurance policies.

The recently revealed recordings apparently add weight to the case against Banier as they highlight Bettencourt's fragility and reveal further gifts made by the heiress to him. Bettencourt, speaking through her lawyers last year, claims she is in full command of her facilities and has the right to share her fortune with her friend.

Banier, 62, is a photographer and author and first met Bettencourt on a photo-shoot in 1987. Bettencourt-Meyers became worried about the influence Banier was having on her mother in 2007 after the death of her father.

Both women serve on the L'Oreal board and Bettencourt holds a 30% stake in the company her father founded in 1909. L'Oreal recorded 2008 revenues of €17 billion and Bettencourt herself is worth an estimated €20 billion, making her the 17th richest person in the world.


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