Netflix delves into the family (and banking) secrets of the Bettencourt affair

WE SAW FOR YOU – In Scandal among the richest woman in the world, the platform shows how this political-financial soap opera was born from a family tear. A documentary series halfway between Downton Abbey And Succession.

A staggering inheritance, family dissensions, political friendships. A legal war, secret recordings and several trials. Four years after a first documentary by Gérard Miller, the Bettencourt affair is the subject of a docuseries on Netflix in three parts, already in lines. Ingenious in their production, effective thanks to their testimonies, sometimes excessive, these three hours fly by at full speed. The title announces their color: Scandal among the richest woman in the world. It could also have been: How to marry a billionaire? Or Scams, bounties and antibiotics

The director duo Baptiste Etchegaray and Maxime Bonnet obtained the confidences of Patrice de Maistre, the wealth manager at the heart of the affair, of the lawyer Georges Kiejman who has now disappeared, of judge Courroye and of Arielle Dombasle, acquaintance of François-Marie Banier and confidante of the daughter of Liliane Bettencourt. Above all, extracts from the twenty hours of conversations secretly recorded by the butler, which made so much headlines at the time, serve as a common thread. They are supplemented by reconstructions often filmed from above, which transform the viewer into a hidden observer.

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The “addictive” François-Marie Banier

The documentary begins by depicting the world of the Bettencourts, halfway between Downton Abbey And Succession (the soundtrack is reminiscent of that of the HBO series). He draws the portrait of the protagonists of the drama. Liliane, this venerable billionaire, visibly funny and sagacious, who has been bored for decades. Françoise Bettencourt Meyers, the girl who always had conflicting relationships with her mother – “She felt robbed of a love”, analyzes a close relative of the family. And finally the strange Monsieur Banier, a photographer loved by show business who became a friend of Liliane in 1987.

He amused the L’Oréal heiress, took her on trips, and gave relief to her daily life. In return, he receives checks, paintings, objects. “We spend time with him”, ures the billionaire in one of the pirate recordings captured by butler Pascal Bonnefoy (a fitting surname). The playwright Jean-Michel Ribes knows the artist well. It testifies : “He’s not someone who’s poorly brought up, he’s much more than that. He is outrageous, which is liberating… And explains the addiction we can have for him. » Where does addiction end, where does control begin? Liliane will always defend her right to generosity.

Political scandal

Having fun is not worth 917 million euros in gifts, judges Françoise Bettencourt Meyers on the contrary. To hear him say, Banier is a Janus who was looking for a Croesus. At the end of the 2000s, she put together a case and looked for evidence. Panic reigns in the Neuilly home. The audio tape is entrusted to him. It can be found in Mediapart. The scandal explodes. For what ? Because comments by Patrice de Maistre suggest the existence of tax fraud and, more seriously, collusion with Minister Éric Woerth… Just talking about it on camera, Edwy Plenel has a mustache which friezes. Subsequently, an accountant will discuss envelopes given to Nicolas Sarkozy, before retracting. Justice will acquit the first and decide to dismiss the second.

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After seven years of proceedings and medical essments, François-Marie Banier was first sentenced to prison, a fine of 350,000 euros and 158 million euros in damages. For abuse of weakness. On appeal, in 2016, the judgment was revised, the photographer received a four-year suspended prison sentence but no longer had a staggering sum to pay. An interesting twist that the documentary could have tried to dissect. He prefers to linger on the intimate and romantic aspects of a story made fascinating by its dilemmas and its issues. But also by its banality. “I love her because she is my daughter…” The Bettencourt affair is the story of a mother and a daughter who did not understand each other.

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