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Bettencourt Sues Daughter Over 'Moral Violence'

Lawsuit follows a third attempt by Bettencourt’s daughter, Françoise Bettencourt Meyers, to have her mother declared incompetent.

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Liliane Bettencourt  and Françoise Bettencourt Meyers in 2007

PARIS — Now the mother has sued the daughter — L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt filed a complaint Wednesday against her daughter for “moral violence.”

The lawsuit follows a third attempt by Bettencourt’s daughter, Françoise Bettencourt Meyers, to have her mother declared incompetent.

“The successive and violent complaints, the indecent exposure of her private life and minor aspects of her state of health in the press are repeated attacks on the tranquility and serenity [Mrs. Bettencourt] aspires to,” according to a statement issued by Bettencourt’s advisers. “Liliane Bettencourt is tired and outraged over this legal and media battle initiated by her only daughter.

“She no longer intends to let herself be discredited, criticized and impeded in her freedom of movement and speech when all attempts at making amends have until now failed,” the statement added.

Bettencourt refuses to be a victim, the statement said, “not least to her daughter.”/10

The lawsuit was filed on the same day that the 87-year-old’s medical records were seized at the home of Professor Gilles Brücker, who had always claimed not to be the Bettencourt’s general practitioner, just a family friend and medical adviser. She had also designated Brücker to be executor of her will, although last month he renounced that role, which involved a payment of one million euros, or $1.4 million at current exchange.

Bettencourt’s health records will now be examined by a team of medical experts. If she is put under guardianship, as her daughter requests, her position on L’Oréal’s board of directors could be at risk, experts in company law told WWD.

Bettencourt’s lawsuit against her daughter is certain to prolong a scandal that has gripped all of France for months — and has turned from a family skirmish into a major political furor stretching up to the office of President Nicolas Sarkozy. Most people bet the affair will force Sarkozy’s current labor minister, Eric Woerth, who is leading Sarkozy’s pension reform plan, to step down for allegedly taking illegal funds to help finance Sarkozy’s presidential campaign. And many believe the saga is helping to undermine Woerth’s boss and, possibly, any hopes Sarkozy has of running for a second term in 2012.

His poll ratings have been dented, while Bettencourt herself has become a symbol of the wealthy’s influence on French politics at a time when Sarkozy is trying to slash government spending.

The president’s moves to trim the budget — and to raise the retirement age to 62 from 60 — have ignited violent protests across France that continued for a fifth day Wednesday. The riots and skirmishes were especially violent in Parisian suburbs and several cities, including Lyon.

Rail and air traffic have been severely disrupted, and a weeklong refinery strike has left thousands of gas stations dry and even fuel depots blockaded, threatening to paralyze road transport.

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