The City

Monaco Court Acquits Four in High-Profile Case of Alleged Vulnerability Exploitation

July 25, 2023
Monaco Court Acquits Four in High-Profile Case of Alleged Vulnerability Exploitation

The Monaco Correctional Court recently reviewed a case that seems to echo the cynical observations of moralist De La Rochefoucauld regarding the true nature of human virtues. At the center of the matter were four defendants: an elderly lady who was a friend of the victim, two real estate agents (a manager and a negotiator), and a property dealer who was the buyer. They were all accused of abusing the vulnerability of an individual, now deceased, during the third quarter of 2017.

The case originated from a traditional Monegasque practice regarding the residence card for foreign residents. The victim, a childless French man, needed to deposit 500,000 euros in a Monaco bank account to extend his expired card. However, he didn't possess the required funds, though he owned properties in Paris and Saint-Tropez, along with a 23-square-meter studio apartment in Monaco's "Le Panorama" building. This property was valued at 940,000 euros, making it the man's likely option to secure the required money.

The elderly lady, his friend of thirty years, was informed about his plan to sell the studio. She supported his decision, undertook the task of finding a buyer, and started negotiations with a real estate agency. Meanwhile, the seller's cognitive abilities were diminishing due to progressive cerebral disturbances, leading to his placement under curatorship in 2018.

However, the court president, Jérôme Fougeras Lavergnolle, suspected some decisions were made in bad faith, hidden behind a false pretense of benevolence. Particularly questionable was the selling price of the studio, which dropped from an initial 1,150,000 euros to 700,000 euros, while an identical apartment below was set at 1,300,000 euros.

Accusations were also leveled against the elderly lady, who was said to have signed a purchase agreement at her home and accompanied the 87-year-old seller to the notary, demanding a 25% commission from the selling price.

While the defendants provided terse and noncommittal responses to these accusations, the victim's godson launched a scathing critique, highlighting the elderly lady's silence about the declining health of the old man. He further questioned the disinterested investor's lack of a sufficient 24-hour reflection period and the manipulative terms that seemed to benefit only the unscrupulous.

The prosecutor, Julien Pronier, also criticized the defendants for forcing a sale on a person who was unable to distinguish euros from francs and had memory impairment. Yet, despite the strong condemnation and calls for a one-year imprisonment sentence, the court, after 41 days of deliberation, pronounced a general acquittal, and the victim's claims were dismissed.

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