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L'Oreal heiress under court order

France's richest woman cosmetics heiress Liliane Bettencourt has been put under the legal protection of relatives by a judge in the latest twist in a family drama worthy of a TV soap.

Lawyers for the L'Oreal heiress said the judge ordered the 88-year-old billionaire and her fortune put in the control of her daughter and grandsons

Bettencourt lawyer Jean-Rene Farthouat called the decision by a judge in the western Paris suburb of Courbevoie "profoundly disappointing" and "quite simply criticisable." It goes into effect immediately.

Ms Bettencourt's heirs reportedly are concerned about her health and management of her fortune, estimated at 20 billion dollars (£12.7 billion).

She is a major shareholder in cosmetics giant L'Oreal, which was founded by her father Eugene Schueller in 1907.

The daughter, Francoise Meyers-Bettencourt, and her mother have waged a years-long battle over the management of the fortune, but late last year appeared to have resolved their legal dispute over more than £1 billion.

The judge's decision was based in part on a court-ordered medical examination that found the heiress suffered from "moderately severe" Alzheimer's disease.

In a recent television interview, Ms Bettencourt sharply criticised the attempts to put her under her daughter's legal guardianship, calling it "a monstrous idiocy." She had long refused to undergo the medical examination to evaluate her mental capacities before ultimately agreeing to it earlier this year.

She also told a French newspaper that she would flee abroad if the judge ruled to give her daughter guardianship. Her lawyer now says there is no question of her leaving the country to escape the judge's ruling.

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