NEWS AND VIEWS OF FRANCE IN ENGLISH
Issue N° 1: July 30 - August 5, 2010
After years of agitprop, the rebel GM maize reaper José Bové has at last convinced the mainstream Page 3
BLESS THIS HOUSE
A Benedictine eco-monastery uses tweets as well as prayers Page 4
Will France face up to the realities of the Papy boom and the economy?
L’Oréal, because you’re Woerth it PHOTO ©FW
As the media fuss dies down, Liliane Bettencourt keeps her dignity and control over her fortune
Éric Woerth – first cast out the beam of thine own eye…
What the butler saw t now looks as if the series influence with de Maistre to ILabour of allegations against get his wife Florence hired Minister Éric on to manage part of the Woerth and his wife were made up. Based on Liliane Bettencourt’s butler’s taped conversations with her wealth manager Patrice de Maistre, they supposedly revealed an avalanche of financial dirty deeds including plans for tax evasion, an island that changed hands off-shore, a chalet and accounts in Switzerland and secret donations to the UMP via Éric Woerth, then party treasurer. Woerth has denied accusations that he used his
Bettencourt fortune. Last month, in the mounting scandal, his wife resigned from the job. Woerth is in the throes of presenting the unpopular but inevitable pension reforms. As each allegation has been shown to be shakier than the last, the opposition has switched to calling for an independent judge to investigate the affair. Even the antigovernment ‘Le Monde’ has now admitted that the minister did not sell a piece of the forest of Compiègne for one tenth of its value.
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he affair which started as a vulgar family brawl over an inheritance in one of France’s richest families has evolved into a full-blown political scandal, reaching as far as the President with accusations of illegal party funding. The main victim has been Minister of Labour Éric Woerth. Hardly anyone emerges well. An unexpected exception is Liliane Bettencourt, the 87-year-old widow and L’Oréal heiress who has just defeated her daughter’s attempts to get her declared gaga for the second time. Very obviously in possession of her faculties, Liliane Bettencourt has used media interviews to ask her daughter to “have the decency to wait until my death to find what I have freely decided in my last will and testament”. Her lawyer warned that if the judicial harassment did not stop, steps might be taken to break the existing trusts worth €30 billion for the daughter and grandsons. At stake is control of the shares of L’Oréal and whether or not it can be sold. Liliane Bettencourt is against a sale outside the family and any suggestion of delocalising the firm from France.
Much of the sting has gone out of the political scandal since key witness Claire Thibout, the Bettencourt’s former accountant, retracted the part of her statement accusing President Sarkozy of receiving cash; Thibout claimed that the online newspaper Mediapart had made this up. The Mediapart journalist Fabrice Lhomme admitted that he had not recorded the vital interviews with Thibout. The media have largely ignored this and have passed over in silence Thibout’s statement that the late President Mitterrand was a regular visitor to the home of Liliane Bettencourt. Thibout’s credibility was further weakened by the revelation that she had been promised €500,000 by Liliane Bettencourt’s daughter Françoise shortly before legal proceedings began. Françoise Bettencourt’s avocat, with a perfectly straight face, explained that his client was merely trying to fulfil her dead father’s wish by ensuring that Claire Thibout was compensated if she lost her job; any suggestion that she might have been trying to encourage false testimony is of course absurd.
Pages 8-9 THIS FRENCH Week
NEWS: Is the mini-party over? 2 TECHNO HELP Your options for getting online 6 MONEY Round-up of the latest tax hikes 7 COMMENT Why must they drive up our bumpers? 12 ARTS Magic sounds from Ethiopia, Summer festivals, entertainment & TV guides, Bilingual crossword 14 & 15