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04.20.2014

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October 29, 2010 5:00 PM

Beauty

Covering the Bettencourt Affair

Covering the Bettencourt scandal is a lot like running a marathon on wildly changing terrain. It takes stamina, and right now there's little visibility on the course...

Covering the Bettencourt scandal is a lot like running a marathon on wildly changing terrain. It takes stamina, and right now there's little visibility on the course A climate of uncertainty increasingly shrouds the saga, as numerous members of the French press corps covering the story claim to have had their computers stolen. Meanwhile, legal dossiers concerning the case are to be moved out of Nanterre, France, to other jurisdictions within the country's court system.


The heart of the Bettencourt affair is relatively straightforward: In December 2007, Francoise Bettencourt Meyers instigated a lawsuit against photographer Francois-Marie Banier. She charges he exploited the weakness of her mother, 88-year-old L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, who had given him assets valued at about 1 billion euros, or $1.39 billion at current exchange. Yet countless twists and turns (many of them unforeseen and with a spicy Stieg Larsson-esque edge) have caused the original kernel of the case practically to be eclipsed. Most recently, Mediapart, the online news service at the forefront of breaking news related to the saga, said last week that during the night between Oct. 7 and 8, its office was burgled and two portable computers were robbed. An external hard drive with confidential information was also nicked, as were two CD-Roms containing the infamous recordings of conversations between Bettencourt and her advisers, among others. As a result, Mediapart has lodged a legal complaint.


Two weeks later, computers belonging to journalists from Le Monde and Le Point were stolen, too.


It makes me wonder: Should I stash mine in a locked closet nightly?


Then there's the demand made earlier last week by Philippe Ingall-Montanier, the public prosecutor of Versailles, France, that kicked off the procedure to have the dossiers for the Bettencourt affair be ultimately moved out of Nanterre. It's the auspices of two dueling magistrates: government-appointed prosecutor Philippe Courroye and judge Isabelle Prevost-Desprez.


With such goings on -- and more -- the finish line of this marathon is still a good distance away.
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