NANTERRE ? The daughter of France's richest woman, multi-billionaire L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, has asked a court to place her under a judicial supervision order, lawyers said Wednesday.
The 87-year-old socialite's daughter, Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers, argues that her mother is no longer in her right mind, after she gave away more than ?1 billion ($1.5 billion) to a society photographer.
Lawyer Olivier Metzner, acting for the daughter, said he had lodged a suit with a family court in the plush west Parisian suburb of Nanterre seeking "only to protect Liliane Bettencourt" from exploitation by the unscrupulous.
Bettencourt's lawyer dismissed this, accusing Bettencourt-Meyers of trying to get her hands on her mother's 30-percent interest in the global cosmetics giant that lies behind her reported $13.4-billion fortune.
Georges Kiejman accused the 56-year-old daughter, who is still heir to the stake and a member of the L'Oreal board, of "indecent haste" in seeking to seize "what is not yet entirely hers."
The attempt to have Bettencourt declared legally incompetent is the latest twist in a long-running legal battle launched by Bettencourt-Meyers against the 62-year-old photographer, writer and artist Francois-Marie Banier.
Since the early 1990s, the heiress has given Banier gifts -- cheques, life insurance policies and artworks -- said to worth more than a billion euros.
Bettencourt insists that she is in full possession of her faculties and gave the money to Banier as gifts to a friend, dismissing her daughter's claims that she has been manipulated by a conman.
French state prosecutors have declined to prosecute Banier, arguing that there is insufficient evidence or abuse of trust, but the daughter has lodged a criminal complaint and remains determined to bring a private prosecution.
Metzner said that he now has access to the prosecutors' dropped case file and that he believes it contains enough evidence to demonstrate Bettencourt's mental weakness to a court.