Perfume Heir On Trial Accused of Racist Remarks

Posted February 9th, 2012 at 8:10 pm (UTC-5)
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An heir to the Guerlain perfume empire went on trial Thursday in Paris on charges of making racist insults.

If convicted, Jean-Paul Guerlain faces up to six months in prison and close to $30,000 in fines. The 74-year-old arrived in court with crutches.

The charges relate to Guerlain's 2010 comments in a French-2 television interview . Rights groups reacted angrily to his choice of words.

Guerlain has said publicly that his remark was “imbecilic” and old-fashioned.

But Patrick Klugman, the lawyer for the group ''SOS Racism,'' said that Guerlain misused his status.

“We are pursuing someone whose name is famous worldwide, who was given a stage to promote himself and express himself – and many could envy that – during a televised news bulletin, so I think we should be particularly attentive to how he used this platform and what he said.”

Klugman also said Guerlain apologized for his comments only after he was threatened with a lawsuit.

''Mr. Guerlain apologized a long time after he made the comments, and only when he felt threatened by legal proceedings. So the way he apologized isn't about repairing (the damage) or realizing how hurtful he was, but simply to exonerate himself from his responsibilities.''

Guerlain's lawyer, Basile Ader, insisted that his client is not a racist and that it was not his intention to offend anyone.

Jean-Paul Guerlain is the great-great-grandson of the founder of the Guerlain cosmetics company, now owned by LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton.