Just hours remained. Now the 'butler tapes' that launched Bettencourt affair are censored!

A judgement by the Versailles court of appeal that Mediapart must remove all extracts and quotations from the crucial 'Butler tapes' that launched the Bettencourt scandal kicked in on Monday July 22nd at 7 p.m.

A judgement by the Versailles court of appeal that Mediapart must remove all extracts and quotations from the crucial 'Butler tapes' that launched the Bettencourt scandal kicked in on Monday July 22nd at 7 p.m. The appeal court ruling could only be brought into effect if one or both of the plaintiffs who brought the case against Mediapart demanded that it be executed. While Liliane Bettencourt's family and legal guardian have not done so, Mediapart was last Monday, July 15th, served with legal papers ordering execution of the decision within eight days by a bailiff's clerk acting for Bettencourt's disgraced former wealth manager, Patrice de Maistre (see more on this here).  

After Monday, if Mediapart did not comply it faced fines of 10,000 euros per day, per offence committed. Mediapart, which first revealed the existence and content of the recordings in 2010, is of course, appealing against this grotesque judgement but, ahead of what threatens to be a long and possibly fruitless procedure, it must remove the articles concerned.

The tapes were secretly recorded by L'Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt's butler over a period of one year, between 2009 and 2010. They contained conversations between Bettencourt and her then-wealth manager Patrice de Maistre and others among her close entourage of 'advisors'. After Mediapart obtained a copy of the recordings, it began publishing in June 2010 - in audio sequences and transcriptions - only those contents that were clearly of a public interest. They exposed, among other things, evidence of tax evasion, influence peddling, suspicions of illegal political funding and interference in justice proceedings by a French presidential advisor. The publication of the recordings not only exposed high-level corruption but also prompted a subsequent lengthy judicial investigation which, now completed, will lead to a trial at a date yet to be announced.

We prepared a selection of articles to help readers better understand the events, before the censorship was enforced. We are keeping this selection posted, because some of the articles do not include direct citations from the tranbscripts, and therefore remain published. Others, as you may find, have been forcefully removed.

A good place to start is this story that outlines the saga from the beginning.

Then there is this story in which the man who made the recordings, Bettencourt family butler Pascal Bonnefoy, describes his fears that the family was being destroyed by an unscrupulous inner circle of advisers and confidantes.

This story relates how former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was involved in the affair, while this article gives the reaction when he was placed under formal investigation.

Read here for how the judges who put the former head of state under investigation have been subjected to a campaign of vilification.

For details on why the court of appeal ordered the removal of the tapes and transcripts from Mediapart's site, read here, and read here for editor-in-chief Edwy Plenel's devastating critique of the judges and their ruling.

Finally, below is a list of other stories from this extraordinary case.

Judge links L'Oréal heiress cash withdrawals to Sarkozy campaign funding

Sarkozy campaign treasurer under investigation for illegal funding, influence peddling

L'Oréal heiress ordered to pay 77.7 million euros after tax scam probe

Behind the bettencourt affair: the battle for L'Oréal

A scandal too far: Bettencourt magistrate is disowned

French prosecutor in Bettencourt affair illegally spied journalists' phone calls

The eerie plot penned by L'Oréal family scandal dandy in 1971

Dinners, cash and Sarkozy: what Bettencourt's accountant told Mediapart

Bettencourt battle back after L'Oréal heiress signs away 143 million euros

The political guard watching over L'Oréal

Bettencourt chauffeur adds to Sarkozy campaign fund allegations

Bettencourt tapes stolen in mystery break-ins targetting Mediapart, Le Point and Le Monde

French interior minister drops libel action against Mediapart

Why we need a strong media in France

Le Club est l'espace de libre expression des abonnés de Mediapart. Ses contenus n'engagent pas la rédaction.