Where is François-Marie Banier after dodging prison?

By Louie Fecou
Published: November 9, 2023 (Last updated: November 16, 2023)
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Francois-Marie Banier
Francois-Marie Banier | Image via GEORGES GOBET/AFP via Getty Images)

The 2023 Netflix documentary The Billionaire, The Butler, and the Boyfriend explores a twisted and intriguing story of money, deception, and scandal involving L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt. The richest woman in the world at the time of her death in 2017, her entourage, her daughter, and her butler, who secretly recorded meetings between the heiress and those that became part of her inner sanctum, became embroiled in a headline-grabbing scandal. One such person was the infamous photographer Francois-Marie Banier. Banier would be implicated in various scandals surrounding the heiress, leading to a court case and resolutions for the actions that occurred.

Where is François-Marie Banier now?

Despite being handed a sentence of three years in prison, Francois-Marie Banier served no jail time thanks to an appeal. Since he was also not held accountable for the one hundred and seventy-three million dollars the Bettencourt family were awarded in damages, he didn’t have to pay a penny either.

Now in his late seventies, the photographer still works, and lives, in Paris, continuing to hold exhibits across the world.

As the story of the docuseries unfolds, we see one of the main players in the events, photographer and close friend to Bettencourt, Francois-Marie Banier, at the heart of the action. He is eventually brought to court and convicted of “abus de faiblesse,” a French charge that translates into “abuse of weakness”.

It would be the daughter of the incredibly affluent heiress, Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers, who would file an official criminal complaint against the man, for allegedly exploiting her mother. The heiress was eighty-five years old at the time, and a report in The New York Times would also put forward the claim that she had developed Alzheimer’s disease.

Secret recordings made illegally by the butler of the heiress, Pascal Bonnefoy, would be used against the photographer and he would be convicted of “abus de faiblesse” and also of money laundering.

Francois-Marie Banier

Francois-Marie Banier with Yves Saint Laurent. Image: PresseFrance)

What did François-Marie Banier do to elderly billionaire Liliane Bettencourt?

The photographer would initially encounter Liliane in 1987 when he was asked to take a photograph of the heiress. After becoming good friends, Liliane would become his patron, but it would not be long before eyebrows were raised about the friendship. Liliane’s daughter was never comfortable with the relationship, and there is an argument that when you have that much money, you will never have any true friendships.

A damning piece in The New York Times would reveal details about the extent of the gifts given to Francois, including incredibly valuable pieces of art and even a private island.

This on its own would not be enough to launch criminal proceedings against anyone, however, the notorious conversations that were recorded would reveal a darker side to events.

In one recorded exchange, it seemed that Liliane was confused about the gifting of the island to him, and Francoise was also on record explaining the photographer deliberately tried to alienate her mother from the rest of the family so he could extort whatever he wanted from her.

What was François-Marie Banier’s background?

Interestingly, even at a young age, the photographer had found himself mixing with the wealthy and affluent members of high society, meeting Salvador Dali when he was only sixteen, and later, at nineteen, he would befriend the sixty-four-year-old wealthy heiress and patron of the arts, Marie-Laure de Noailles.

He would write his first book when only twenty-two, and a collection of his photographs was collated by Parisian designer and antique dealer Madeleine Castaing.

Banier would continue to meet and develop friendships with many influential people including Yves Saint Lauren, Piere Cardin, Mick Jagger, Kate Moss, Johnny Depp, and Princess Caroline of Monaco.


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