Lawyer demands adjournment of L`Oreal fraud trial

Lawyer for a photographer accused of defrauding L`Oreal heiress described the case as "nauseating".

Nanterre: The lawyer for a photographer accused of defrauding L`Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt described the case as "nauseating" and demanded an adjournment at the start of the trial on Thursday.

"I consider that the methods used by the civil plaintiffs have crossed a line that should not be crossed," said Herve Temime, defending the photographer Francois-Marie Banier.

He criticised the lawyers for Bettencourt`s daughter Francoise Meyers-Bettencourt, bringing the case against Banier, for their handling of secretly recorded tapes which have sparked a scandal.

Media last month published details of telephone conversations recorded by Bettencourt`s butler, which allegedly revealed she was plotting to evade taxes on her fortune.

Temime demanded that a "nauseating and impossible" case against his client be postponed while he studies the new evidence. "The means used are harmful to a fair trial," he added.

The lawyer complained that the tapes had been leaked to media, causing a scandal, before they were shown to lawyers in the case.

The furore over the secret tapes has sparked calls for the resignation of Labour Minister Eric Woerth, accused of a conflict of interest because his wife worked for Bettencourt`s estate while he was budget minister in charge of policing tax fraud.

Banier, 63, sat in the courtroom in Nanterre, west of Paris, drawing in a sketchbook as he waited for the trial to start and then sat solemnly listening as the arguments over a postponement were heard.

The photographer and friend to France`s richest woman is accused of "fraudulently" exploiting 87-year-old Bettencourt, who gave him masterpiece paintings, cash and insurance policies worth a billion euros (about USD 1.2 billion).

Both he and Liliane Bettencourt have rejected the daughter`s claims and accused her of trying to cash in on her inheritance prematurely.

Bureau Report

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